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1,779 Repositioning Cruise Reviews

Our first week was really enjoyable, the weather was reasonable for the time of the year. The second week unfortunately was spoiled by the weather (not Cunard's fault) We were Britannia club dining, which was very elegant and ... Read More
Our first week was really enjoyable, the weather was reasonable for the time of the year. The second week unfortunately was spoiled by the weather (not Cunard's fault) We were Britannia club dining, which was very elegant and the service was excellent. It is of course a large ship and after dinner exercise consisted of walking mostly round the ship from one venue to another. On the down side the Kings court food hall was very scattered, it had four areas, after choosing your meal, the particular area could close whilst half way through a meal, if you wanted 'pudding' another 'open' area had to be found! Albeit it was easy to order breakfast in your room,(there was a card on the back of your door) the 'complimentary' room service according to another passenger had a 2.50 dollar charge, I wouldn't know, no-one ever answered the phone!This was confirmed by other passengers who also tried for room service. Dressing gowns in varying materials were supplied with slippers. These are for the 'use' of, if you wish to bring them home there is charge for the dressing gowns. I thought the entertainment was staid for the most part. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
My husband and I just returned from a transatlantic crossing on the QM2. It was an anniversary celebration and an opportunity to experience a transatlantic crossing. We were in a Britannia stateroom...very nicely appointed except for the ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from a transatlantic crossing on the QM2. It was an anniversary celebration and an opportunity to experience a transatlantic crossing. We were in a Britannia stateroom...very nicely appointed except for the very small bathroom! Unlike previous reveiwers, we found the dining room to be very good in terms of both food quality and service. We also enjoyed the Chef's Galley for dinner where you watch each course being prepared, recipes discussed and then given to each guest. Well worth the $10 charge but be sure to book ahead as it fills up every nite. The afternoon tea was lovely. The food was great and beautifully served in the Queen's room where a full orchestra played. The dining room always had a Canyon Ranch excellent offerring so it was easy to keep to a diet. The buffet however was dreadful so we only ate there once. We have taken several cruises and feel we are in a position to make comparisons. For the price point, our QM2 trip was an excellent value. Be careful when you book because the fares and on board credits vary tremendously. We found the "funny" tube like balcony disappointing since you cannot see the sea unless you stand up so I suggest a regular balcony. We had some rough seas but the ship is so well built for this type of crossing, we never felt a thing and were able to sit and walk on the promenade deck the whole time. Service all thru the ship was fine, easy on and off the ship despite having to take care of 2600 passengers. Don't worry about not having enough to do without ports...there's lots scheduled everyday but a lot depends on who they have for the lectures. We especially enjoyed Bill Miller who gave 4 lectures on the history of travelling by ship...he really made us feel like we had stepped back in time on the QM2. The planetarium shows were also very good. It's truly a ship for dancing with lessons given everyday and orchestras playing all evening long. People do dress on the QM2...almost all were in long gowns and tuxedos. Day wear is casual and "nice" jeans are accepted everywhere during the day. While there were some excellent singers, the resident singers and dancers were just fair. The RADA group were excellent as were the musicians from Julliard. Overall we really enjoyed the trip...it was like going thru the Panama canal...a one time event for us. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
I read previous reviews and started to worry.No need.An absolutely beautiful ship.Excellent staff,even at the unfairly slated reception.Food ranged from o.k to very good,never fantastic but certainly never bad.The choice at lunch in ... Read More
I read previous reviews and started to worry.No need.An absolutely beautiful ship.Excellent staff,even at the unfairly slated reception.Food ranged from o.k to very good,never fantastic but certainly never bad.The choice at lunch in particular was very extensive.If you couldn't find something you liked, then there must be something wrong. Most people we spoke to got some sort of "deal".We ourselves paid £456 each for a 14 night cruise.Incredible.To make up for cheap headline prices,M.S.C do try to recuperate by charging on various items.The drinks are rather expensive,as are the photo's,and excursions,but no one is forced to use any of these services. There is always room for sun-bathing on M.S.C Ships as they don't clutter the decks with climbing walls e.t.c.The evening shows are of an excellent standard if a bit on the short side.The music in the various lounges is also of very high quality.We thought the day time activities could have been a bit more extensive and varied particularly given the number of sea days on a Transatlantic trip.Daytime entertainment seemed to consist of either quizzes or holiday camp type knobbly knee competitions.A film show,cooking demonstration,or port lecture might have been nice. The Gym hasn't the biggest range of equipment,but has fantastic views at the front of the ship.The pools and Jacuzzis are fine.The Balinese massage is great but expensive so wait till they have offers on port days.The specialist Italian restaurant L'OBelisco isn't really worth the extra charge, the food is good but the portions very small.The cabins too are quiet small,but are nicely decorated,and have everything you need in them. One tip if you do ever go on this ship, is to take a proper cup with you, they use plastic cups at the 24 hour drink station and they just don't taste the same as proper cups. A great tip at a great price.If you ever get an offer go for it, and don't worry about the critics,there are undoubtedly people who go on cruises simply to find something to moan about. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Consider this a review from the point of view of someone whos never cruised on NCL but has some experience on HAL and Princess. We chose this cruise based on price and itinerary and while we were not disappointed in either of these ... Read More
Consider this a review from the point of view of someone whos never cruised on NCL but has some experience on HAL and Princess. We chose this cruise based on price and itinerary and while we were not disappointed in either of these respects, we did find ourselves quite disappointed at the end of the cruise for 2 very specific reasons that Ill detail at the end. To us they were important; to you they may not be. The Sun is a very clean looking ship, well maintained, smartly painted and kept up quite well. I've not seen any areas of the ship where trash has been left to stand for days or even hours as I have on both HAL and Princess ships. You can find rust on the Sun, but not nearly so easily as you can on other ships. She was in dry dock less than a year ago so that certainly helps. The colors in the carpets and drapes are all strong and not sun faded. Overall, I'd have to say the condition of the ship is perhaps a halfstep above the other ships weve been on. The rooms are a bit more cramped than others weve had and the storage space rather more limited. Each cabin has a small refrigerator and while that may be fine for some, I'd rather have the storage space. It is possible to have the mini-bar goodies removed so you can use the fridge for other things. One thing we noticed was that the water pressure in the cabin was almost overpoweringly strong and there was a never-ending supply of nearly scalding hot water, both quite appreciated. In fact, the water pressure onboard was better than it is here at home. Dust accumulated on every surface at a furious rate in our cabin. I don't fault the stewards though as they cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. The AC, which worked well throughout the cruise, seems to generate the dust and distribute it. When we opened the air intake to look at the filter, we found it solidly blocked by 2+ inches of woolie dust. Our steward was most apologetic about it and cleaned it thoroughly, explaining that it was maintenances job to clean and replace them. All four cabins of our party had the same problem, and I think that this, in part, led to my wife developing a sinus infection that drove her to the ships doctor; a cruise first for us. The beds are standard singles that can be pushed together to form a queen of sorts. How they manage to move them is another question as they seem to be made of solid concrete and only get firmer as the cruising nights pile up. Then there's the pillows or whatever they really are; I suspect they might alternately be used as body armor. I never pulled the cases off, but I also suspect they may be 2"x12" planks of wood, they litterally are that hard and flat. That's it for pillows, 2 per bed. No throw pillows for charm or propping up to read. The love seat there is barely room for makes into a bed, but only apparently for torturing its inhabitant as sitting on it alone is cause enough to contact Amnesty International. We've discovered that the drapes that cover our generous porthole hang at noticeably different lengths. This causes the weighted bottom of the shorter of the two to bang annoyingly when the seas are a bit rambunctious behind the wall they slide into. There are no chocolates during evening turndown service or note from the crew or captain wishing us a good night's sleep. Also, no magically refreshed fruit bowl in the room, not that there's much space for it to sit if there were one. The bath is functional. Dull white nearly seamless formed plastic walls with a formed sink and tube-like (yes, tube with an e) shower stall. A hair dryer hangs above the toilet and the towel that hangs from the lowest towel bar does so into or over the trashbin, your choice. Fortunately, the stewards always hang the floor mat there. The bath stall is clean, and appears to be easily cleaned, but I just can't help noticing all the (not yet all my own) hairs that inevitably stick to the white plastic walls during the wiping down process. This is a bathroom that is made for "multi-taskers" as I can literally sit on the can, wash my face in the sink after shaving it while soaking my feet and legs in the shower tube. All soaps come from dispensers, there are no bottles of name-brand shampoos and no body lotion whatsoever. The food is fine; we had no trouble finding something to eat at each feeding and it seems to be available more often than on HAL/Princess. There is almost always food someplace, whether at the sports bar, outdoor cafe, buffet or main dining rooms. One thing to note is that for the 24/7 pizza, there is a $5 delivery charge, double the delivery charge to have pizza delivered at home. The problems we had with food tended to be getting at it. Because there are so many venues for food, they are all are rather small and quickly fill up at prime dining times, making movement difficult, with the exception of the main dining rooms. Also, there's no easy way to get through the Garden Cafe (the buffet) to the Great Outdoor Cafe (aft buffet) from the pool area of deck 11 when the troughs are open. As for service, it's generally good but tends to be slow, especially in the main dining room and the sports bar. You can pay to eat at several different venues which are unlike any Ive seen on other cruise lines. Theres a Brazilian Churrascaria onboard which is pushed heavily by the staff, a French restaurant, a sushi bar, a tappas bar, and Italian restaurant and even a teppanyaki experience. We chose to eat only once at Il Adagio, the Italian restaurant with nice views of whatever is alongside the starboard side of the ship. We celebrated the birthday of one of our party of 8 and when we made reservations found that they could only accommodate parties of 4, meaning we were side-by-side in booths, not the greatest arrangement for a party but we made it work. The service here was attentive and personal. The time we spent enjoying beautifully presented good food went quickly, unlike it does in the main dining rooms, where long stretches of time passed between courses and service. Seating was quick in the main dining rooms, but it seemed we were waited on by robots who made little attempt to do more than required to serve a multi-course meal. I think this is attributable to the Freestyle Dining concept. We found it too much to try and keep up with or avoid any particular waiter. We spent a lot of time at the Garden Caf, Great Outdoor Caf and the Sports Bar. Wed like to see the concept of the sports bar on other ships. Also, we missed the full hot and cold sandwich bar found on the HAL/Princess ships weve been on. There was a lunch-time DIY cold station where you could make your own sandwich, but it was hidden over at the churrascaria and we generally avoided this area as it was just inside from where smoking on the pool deck was allowed and always smelled of it. We did find, unfortunately for our waistlines, that the ice cream/dessert bar was open continuously from lunch time until well after dinner, and thoroughly enjoyed the peach and blueberry cobbler but passed on the bread pudding, which others did seem to enjoy. The fitness center saved the day, however, from the indulgences of the ice cream bar. I used it almost daily and on the couple of days I didnt, I could be found power-walking on the promenade on deck 6. One note about the promenade; it was good for walking, even with the mild elevation changes forward, but otherwise I had no use for it as there was no chaise lounges or chairs to be found there, unlike on HAL and Princess ships. I missed that very much. The fitness center was by far the best Ive seen on any ship Ive been on. There were no fewer than 8 treadmills, 4 recumbent bicycles, 6 ellipticals and a good number of weight-training machines and free weights. There was also stair climbers and upright bicycles for use. This room was separate from the area where yoga and other trainer-led classes were conducted, so there were no conflicts with classes and very rarely ever a wait for a machine to work on, even though they were in nearly constant use. Once or twice, I found a machine out of service, but it was usually repaired and working the same day. The doors were open from 6 am until 10 pm daily and while there was a small sign on the wall in front of the treadmills indicating their hours as 8 am to 10 pm (meaning while there as a spa attendant available) I never saw any enforcement of this. I have to say that while on HAL and Princess I never saw many machines in use and no rush to the fitness center but Id sure like to see them add addition weight equipment such as found here on the Sun. Other items of note: My wife was pleased to see that Park West ran the art auctions onboard rather than the inhouse auctions found on HAL and Princess. We had such a bad experience with the art director on the ms Veendam in Dec. 2010 that we really thought wed never go back to one, but Park West fixed that opinion and she was glad to see them onboard. We did notice that on deck 7 where the Sun Club Casino is located, smoke from the casino was noticeable, and even could be smelled on other decks in the atrium areas. My guess is the HVAC, which should produce negative air pressure in the casino, wasnt doing its job fully. We didnt attend any of the shows, but from what we heard most everyone was pleased, however, one of our party found that whenever she was in the Stardust Lounge, she would break out in hives and therefore quit attending them. There was something in the fabric of the seats that irritated her skin. We found it odd that each evening before sundown the pool deck and the deck 12 above was cleared of all lounges. There was no lounging in the evenings allowed, even when the weather became conducive as we moved further south across the Atlantic. When they were out, they were at a premium. I think the open-air pool deck might be the reason behind removing the lounges. The HAL ships Ive been on with their retractable pool deck roofs are a really great solution to this problem. There seemed to be few wine stewards in the buffett areas but did find that you could identify them by the purple tops they wore rather than the white tops of the wait staff. We did have to flag them down though as they rarely stopped and inquired whether you needed anything. Overall, the crew did an excellent job and I have no complaints about service other than whats been mentioned. One thing to note, though, is that this crew was of a much more diverse mix of cultures, origins and nationalities than Ive found on HAL and Princess and seemed to be more relaxed and casual, but always professional. Our room steward, Silby, did an outstanding job. Our cabin was on deck 4, the lowest passenger-accessible deck on the ship, which often equates to the least experienced hotel staff, but we found that didnt apply on the Sun. Now to the disappointments. You may find them silly and superfluous. Two things weve come to expect and appreciate on our cruises on HAL and Princess are a trip log and a survey at the end of the cruise. We received neither from NCL. We love the trip logs weve received in the past and reference them often when reminiscing as they record the daily itinerary, location, and facts about the cruise in general, like distance traveled, food consumed, and so forth. To us, they are an indication that the cruise line wants to help me remember the time I spent with them. And, while a survey can sometimes be a bother to complete (but has never been obligatory), they are an indication that the cruise line cares to know my thoughts, good and bad, about their performance during the time we spent with them. These things communicate something to us that just didnt happen on this cruise. I did not get the feeling, upon leaving, that NCL cares how I felt they fulfilled my expectations, nor that I remember this cruise or care to ever cruise with them again; not the sort of feeling you want a customer to leave with. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
I went on the 24 night roundtrip voyage on Queen Elizabeth from Southampton to New York and New England for my 30th Birthday. The ports of call themselves were beautiful, fantastic, everything I thought they would be and more even though ... Read More
I went on the 24 night roundtrip voyage on Queen Elizabeth from Southampton to New York and New England for my 30th Birthday. The ports of call themselves were beautiful, fantastic, everything I thought they would be and more even though the weather wasn't great. Going to New York has always been a dream of mine and to have that dream come into reality was bliss. However I shall keep this review about the ship, the ports of call can always be searched alternatively. Allow me to begin this review by stating that I chose the Cunard line for a purpose; I have a specific interest in maritime history and the days gone by as it were, and I wanted to relive the nostalgia of the vintage era. The ship lived up to it's name - the passengers, well, they were a different story altogether. I will start with the good points about the ship as there were many. First of all, the ship was pristine, glistening marble and wood, polished tables and stunning decor. The cabin, we were A4 Balcony, far exceeded my expectations. It was spotless, the bed was comfortable, our room steward was beyond fantastic - he put up with doing some extra cleaning due to my allergies and immunity etc. There wasn't a great deal amount of space for clothing etc but we managed and sitting on the balcony at 5am watching Lower Manhattan pass by slowly is something I will never forget and something one cannot experience if flying into New York. The Matri-D's were excellent, there was a man whose name passes me by now, but I nickednamed him Jose Marino for his slight resembelence to the Portugese manager. He was so friendly, he used to go out of his way to come and speak to us every day and say hello. Our restaurant Matri-D', Ali, was also friendly and rather amusing, one felt as if they were talking to old friends rather than staff of a large ship. We were seated in the Britannia Restaurant towards the back of the ship where we had glorious sweeping views of the sea as we ate. The food was excellent, simply excellent although I could have done with a slightly bigger plate as it was so delicious, the portions were somewhat small. The ship itself is furnished in wood and bronze with stunning art deco decor and a real feeling of being in the gilded age itself. You could not fault the design of the ship with its sweeping grand staircase and beautiful ornate furnishings. If you are looking for a ship with a pizzeria and a shopping mall, a duplex on sea then you are looking in the wrong place. Cunard is all about taste, refinement, elegance, tea in the afternoon served with white gloved waiters whilst listening to a harpist, classical music accompanying your dinner, ballroom dancing and old style glamour. This was fine by me, I suffer from a host of medical conditions and rest a lot so I felt the haze and rush of Royal Carribean would not have suited my needs. The entertainment staff were excellent, they really got the guests involved, especially the Head of Entertainment, Keith Maynard, who I gather has quite a following amongst Cunard fans (lucky Keith!). Not surprising, he cut a fine dash in his tuxedo and was funny, witty and professional, and dare I say it rather naughty in the Mr and Mrs Quiz! This brings me round to the question, and my first complaint, what was there to do? The answer was not much if you are under 65. This cruise was not marketed as an over 60's but may has well have been, Cunard know where their cash cow lies and do little to offfer much to any other demographic - every facility and design of that ship was catered with the over 60's in mind. Yes, one might argue, this is the greatest percentage of cruisers. But, what about the other 20 or 30%, does their money not matter? I am in my thirties and was quite honestly disappointed. As I stated above, I was not looking for nightclubs, a booze cruise so to speak but found myself wandering around at 8pm wondering what an earth to do with myself in my ballgown. The entertainment was not to my liking at all, apart from the odd thing like the comedian and magician who were both excellent. Shows and musicals are not my forte so unless one wishes to go to the Royal Court Theatre or wait from dinner till 11pm for the Golden Lion entertainment, especially if you are on the early sitting for dinner, there is little else to do. No evening films, no evening classes, nothing, apart from aimlessly wandering the decks. The same applied to the daytime activities. All were catered for the over 60's...bingo, bridge, ballroom dancing classes, lectures - none of that appealled to me. Whilst I would not have wanted to hang from a rock faced wall or skated on ice at sea, I wouldn't have minded something to do. I did however attend David Henderson's lectures on air travel which were excellently presented and Seth Golpin and Bill Millers lectures were also good but I missed them and caught them on the TV. If one fancied a little music, the DJ did not start until so late that it was time for bed by the time he had put his first track on. I would like to have gone to Michael Jackson night but my condition means I need to rest early and everyone else was supping cocoa and reaching for their slippers by then. Which brings me around to my primary complaint: the people on board. I worked in PR and can easily mix with all types of people from all walks of life but I have never encountered such rudeness and hostility as the passengers on this cruise. A lot of these people were of retirement age, or older, and some obviously had a lot of money and were loathed to breathe the same air as anyone who they felt was beneath them. You walked into the elevator, for example, said good morning to someone and they snubbed you. I use a walking stick at times and twice was pushed over, the first time I was knocked off my feet outside the arcade shop by a man bustling past who did not even turn round to apologise even though I told him he had just knocked me over. I was speechless. The second time was in Quebec City, where a man did not wish to wait for me to hobble past, barged me out of the way and grabbed my arm and bruised it as I fell, he then walked off and turned around and shouted at me, in full view of other passengers, shouting that my stick was in his way. He carried on striding ahead and kept turning around and hesitating as if to start an argument but his long suffering wife, who was also disabled, with a stick, chastided him to the best of her ability. These people did not say excuse me whilst queuing for tea, they just pushed you out of the way, barged in front of you if you walked too slow and tutted if you said something they did not like. My mother takes medication that keeps her alive, without it she would be dead, simple as that. Whilst taking her medication at breakfast one morning, this hideous couple started whispering and pointing at my mother. The man then leans over and shouts "if you take any more of them your going to rattle". I was astounded, who made it his business. These people continued whispering and pointing at my mother whilst we were in Halifax much to our annoyance. As I said before, I sometimes use a walking stick. I suffer with a very rare genetic disorder which means my ligaments tear and the collegen that supports the joint does not exist and all my joints move, dislocate, fracture etc on mimimal exertion. This has also affected my heart and sometimes I need a wheelchair, other times I can manage. Because of this, I spent the entire cruise being stared at, people pointing at me, whispering and making nasty comments. One woman at tea was saying to her husband "one minute she has a stick, where is her stick now" as if God made it her business. Folded in my bag was the answer but I confronted her and she got very nasty. These people looked me up and down like they were eying up vermin, like I was something on the bottom of their shoe which I have to say, ruined my holiday, as I could not relax and unwind, I felt like I constanty had something to prove with people whispering and backstabbing. What do they know of rare genetic diseases and how ill I felt? The attitude of the ship's staff towards my disability left little to be desired. I boarded the ship in a wheelchair and made it known I would need assistance yet there was no protocol for assistance, no-one to ask where to go and what to do. When we got to New York we were told at the terminal there was no wheelchair assistance to get me on and off the ship and they left me standing there until I collapsed and was then given a chair to sit on. Of course I got filthy looks from passengers who had seen me walking a little bit without the need of a chair. It was only at the END of the cruise I was told that I needed to book the wheelchair from the pursers office to get on and off the ship and that they pick you up from your room. I had never been told this. I only found out through my horrific experience getting off the ship by tender at Bar Harbour. We were delayed due to bad weather so some tenders had gone, others were waiting. To get off, if you are part of a tour you went to the Queens Room, got your ticket and went when your ticket was called. If you were not part of a tour you were put at the back and had to wait till the very end to get off, apparantly the Captain announced 'open tender' and anyone could then disembark. I went to the Queens Room to ask for a wheelchair, to be told by a very rude man who SHOUTED at me "WHEELCHAIR, WE DON'T, YOU CAN'T HAVE A WHEELCHAIR". Then I was told to go the pursers desk, who then sent me back to the Queens Room to get a ticket despite me telling her I was not on a tour and needed a wheelchair. I was in tears by this time and feeling rather unwell with all the walking backwards and forwards. Eventually I braved the tender alone, thinking I'd use my stick and manage, only to be told "I wasn't disabled enough to use the lift, I had to walk". Excuse me I said, I cannot manage two flights of stairs? You are not in a wheelchair therefore you walk was the curt reply from the woman checking people off the ship. "How dare you" I fumed, "what is this, disability discrimination?" The Entertainments Manager luckily was there and told me to go ahead and use the lift. Who are they to judge my pain and condition, the Department for Work and Pensions? The Lido The staff in the Lido were horrific. Not all of them I must stress, some of them were lovely but the particular individuals I encountered were so rude and nasty I would not sail on this ship again. Some of the staff huffed and puffed and clearly could not be bothered to work. The tables were never cleared away, we had to ask each time for a table to be wiped of the previous passengers food reminants. One girl REFUSED to wipe the table, I had to get her manager. They could not be bothered to wait for people to get their drinks and barged in to do their job with little regard for the passengers. This lead to my having an accident. Two surly buffet staff were waiting to fill the coffee machine, there was a queue a mile long for tea and hot water. Instead of saying excuse me, or letting people get the hot water and tea whilst putting the coffee people to one side, they pushed in and huffed and puffed their way through the process of replacing the filter. I came to my turn of getting hot water and they would not move. I said 'excuse me' and they said 'you can get there'. I replied I could not and would they please move. They pointed at a tap next to me with hot water which I proceeded to use but instead of waiting for me to finish, these two buffet stewards pushed me and I scalded my hand with boiling hot water. I screamed, dropped my cup, and went to get some ice. We called the Matri-D over, a loathesome chap called Theo who strutted around looking down his nose at everyone. He came over and looked me up and down with a look of disgust and said he wasn't there therefore could not possibly comment. He saw my hand was burnt and red raw and stuck up for his staff, offered no apology yet looked at me with pure malice. I told him off for looking down at me and said with absolute horror "are you not going to offer me an apology". To which he repeated his first response of that he was not there. I could not believe the attitude of this man who was paid to wait on passengers, not make them feel two feet tall. Prices Everything on this ship was inflated, grossly overpriced. Hair Colour for $90 only to be charged an extra $30 to dry it, $15 to remove nail polish? Even the spa treatments were triple what I normally pay in the heart of London. The tours were grossly expensive as well, one could have picked up city buses in Boston and Newport for a few dollars rather than pay over $60 each. We did Quebec by ourselves and thoroughly enjoyed it. I only did a few tours, there were a lot of complaints about the organisation of the tours but the New York one I did was absolutely fantastic - couldn't have asked for a better experience although my fellow passengers were grumbling and glaring at me, grinning from ear to ear taking in the sights and squealing every time we got to a landmark. The Boston tour we did was also excellent. To sum up: I was truely ashamed to be British from the attitudes I got from my fellow passengers. There was no tolerance of others, no manners, no please and thank you. Yes I met a few nice people, I will not lie that there were some nice people on board but 95% were as described and I thought it was the younger generation wherein the problem lies.... Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
I knew when I saw this itinerary, that I wanted to do this because we have never been on a trans-atlantic cruise before. We flew directly to Dusseldorf via Air Berlin from LAX where we were met by German friends that we became friends ... Read More
I knew when I saw this itinerary, that I wanted to do this because we have never been on a trans-atlantic cruise before. We flew directly to Dusseldorf via Air Berlin from LAX where we were met by German friends that we became friends with when we were on the NCL JADE to the Black Sea in 2009. After a day and night of German hospitality we then went by train to Lubeck where we stayed a couple nights at Hotel Stadt Lubeck. It is close to the Bahnhof which is what we wanted and clean. Maybe, a couple minutes of walk. We didn't hear any trains from our room. It is small and not modern. While at Lubeck we met a friend that I haven't seen for over 40 years. From Lubeck, we went by train to Copenhagen where we stayed at Hotel Savoy before embarking the NCL SUN. At first we were going by bus # 26 to the pier but met some cruisers at the hotel and went with them by taxi. This was the easiest embarkation we ever had. It took only a few minutes to enter the ship. That was awesome. It was unbelievable! As usual, the NCL crew is friendly and made us feel at home. Our room steward, Kurt, was great. He would straighten up our mess even if I thought it was presently. Every morning, I would fix the bed but that wasn't good enough for him so he made it look nicer. He also made so many towel animals for us. The best one that I like, is the little mouse in the cup. Kurt thought it was cute that I would put a couple leis on the towel animals. The leis were of the Belgium flag colors that was given to us when we crossed the Netherlands into Belgium. The waiters etc at the dining room was excellent except for the last breakfast which we didn't get what we ordered. She wasn't a happy waitress at all...not a good example for NCL but I mostly remember the excellent ones such as Eddie that remembered us from the SUN cruise last year from Santiago to Miami and Franjaya. The only problem with Franjaya, a group of cruisers had booked dinner with him for the entire cruise so we hardly saw him and when we did, he was awesome like Eddie. Amsterdam was great. Have never being there before so made arrangements with Marius of De Dagtoertaxi which was recommended by our friend Heinbloed. A fellow cruiser joined us to see Amsterdam, Marken, Volendam, the windmill museum and went through very nice villages before returning to Amsterdam. This was an awesome tour with Marius. Few minutes after returning to the terminal, we were met by our friends, Heinbloed and Bruno who stole us away for an overnight at Brussels where we ate Belgium food at the top of the Atomium. He is the person that gave us the Belgium flag color leis when we crossed into Belgium which we were very surprised to receive. They took us to Ghent and Bruges and returned us to Zeebruges to board our ship. Heinbloed and Bruno were awesome and the places they took us to, were awesome. How can we ever thank you for all you did for us? I wish that NCL would have an overnight at either Amsterdam or Zeebruges. The only photos I've seen of the Atomium was during daylight and to see it at night was awesome. Plus spending time at Brussels and seeing the famous Mannequin Pis and the Palace area. Ghent is quieter than Bruges and I like it better because it had less tourist so wasn't as crowded as Bruges where the sidewalks were full of tourist. At Lisbon, we joined a tour that one of the cruisers arranged for with "We hate tourism tours". The greatest adventure on this was to see Quinta da Regaleira at Sintra. This was another awesome place. At Ponta Delgada Azores, Ricardo of Amazing Tours was our guide. I made arrangements with him in 2010 for this tour for 7 of us. He and Ponta Delgada was also awesome. What is said of him in cruise critic is true. At Cape Canaveral, we joined Mary from our cruise who arranged for a shuttle to take 6 of us to the Orlando Airport. That was awesome of Mary to arrange that. This was an awesome cruise. Am now looking forward to another cruise with the SUN. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
While eating breakfast one day in the QM2's Britannia Restaurant on a crossing from Southampton to New York, I had an experience that captured many of my reactions to this ship. My partner and I had decided to forego our usual ... Read More
While eating breakfast one day in the QM2's Britannia Restaurant on a crossing from Southampton to New York, I had an experience that captured many of my reactions to this ship. My partner and I had decided to forego our usual morning run through the buffet in favor of something more pampered, and we opted to sit at a 6-person table rather than eat alone. Among the passengers already seated was a wiry, sixty-something, somewhat-weathered, vaguely-upmarket British woman and her husband. Her order included fruit salad, and when it arrived she was not pleased: it consisted entirely of two types of melon, when what she had expected were additional ingredients like pineapple, strawberries and grapes. She lectured the server vigorously and with an edge, pointing out that she knew well that there were other types of fruit on board because she had seen them at the buffet line. The server explained that this was what was had been prepared for that meal, but she was rough with him and would have none of it. He took it back from her and retreated. By now neither my partner nor I was feeling comfortable, and I noticed that one of the other two people at the table was getting a bit squirmy. The woman's husband was mute; we were sure he'd been through scenes such as this before, poor thing. The waiter may have been gone by now but the woman still had more to say, and so she turned to the rest of us to point out the weakness of the tea. This led (inevitably, because I suspect it's really where she was looking for an excuse to go all along) to the observation that Cunard is not really a British liner anymore -- the tea would have been better in the old days. She then moved on from food, reminding us that the recognized currency on the ship is now the US dollar, not the British pound, as it once had been -- a pity. I don't know where she might have taken us next, but we were saved when the waiter reappeared with exactly what she had wanted in the first place. She was thrilled, triumphant, transformed, and thanked him profusely. The meal could finally proceed, even if the mood were grim. Whenever anyone asks me what it was like to travel on the QM2, I can't help but think of that breakfast, which serves as both launching pad and repeated reference point for this review. It certainly raised some matters that were central to my own QM2/Cunard experience. First and most important is that this little drama took place in a restaurant (actually, I'd call it a dining room, but more on that later), and the issue was a problem that someone had with her food. This piece is, in fact, very much about eating, and I think that's appropriate, for say what you will about the service, entertainment, spa, casino or lounges: on any big ship, it's basically about the food. This is especially true on a transatlantic voyage where there are no ports of call between points of departure and destination, and therefore nowhere other than the ship to eat or pass the hours of the day. Many, if not most, of the crew is there to support the creation, delivery and cleanup of food. For those passengers unskilled at finding ways to amuse themselves, say by reading, playing bridge, or going to movies or the gym (and there are more than a few of these), eating is the main event of the day. Nor should we forget all of the time spent talking about the food and dressing for dinner. Cunard's pre-sailing literature could not be more clear on this: "Dining on board a Cunard ocean liner is one of the greatest thrills that awaits you." They have set the bar high, they throw everything at it, and we have every right to think first of food when we evaluate the shipboard experience. This is a happy situation for someone like me who enjoys eating well and cooking for others, and who has also worked in professional kitchens; writing a food-focused review of the QM2 is an agreeable task that Cunard has invited by its pitch. To be clear, then, this isn't a blanket review of the entire sailing experience, but given the degree to which the quality of the dining experience drives the overall perception of a voyage, the focus on eating seems reasonable. Specifically avoided was any attempt at a thorough discussion of service on this ship, except where necessary in the context of eating. Service is not a minor issue, but to get into that would make an already very long piece much longer and distract from the main point. Besides, there is no lack of opinion on this in other reviews, and anyone seriously thinking about traveling on Cunard should consult those for more information. I'll dismiss the entire topic by noting that the service was so uniformly good that if I could spend the rest of my life being treated as I was on the QM2, I would die a very happy man. What I knew at the outset of this task, and what became even more apparent the more I worked, however, is that eating is about much more than food, and so in the end I found that I could not feel that I had done the matter justice without allowing myself to stray now and again. Service couldn't be entirely avoided, for example, since food is served, but then there are the issues of class and dress: for me, they all came together and I wasn't happy until I had herded them all into same discussion. I wish that I could offer a simple, unqualified answer to the question how does Cunard do with the food? but, as in many things, it all depends upon your expectations. While sailing on the QM2 was a good experience that I would eagerly repeat and always choose over flying if I could spare the seven days, I must say that I found the food to be only so-so, not great, and for me the trip would have been much improved if some food matters had been handled differently. I took that copywriter who said that QM2 dining was a thrilling experience at his word, and my expectations were higher. Our table-mate who ordered the fruit salad clearly expected more as well, and if you seriously hold Cunard to its stated promise then you too will probably have a few disappointments before your trip is over, though I hope you won't raise such a fuss as she did. If you appreciate a nice presentation and good service, and if you don't care too much about the details but just want to eat decently, then you'll likely be more than satisfied. This is not a bad score, especially when you consider the sheer number of food events that happen on a seven-day trip -- there is no way they could all be perfect. They do well even in the Britannia, the lowest of three levels of dining rooms, where the great majority of passengers eat their meals, and where I took mine. The room is comfortable, the tables are set nicely, the staff is attentive and the menus are tempting. For me, however, it was far from excellent and certainly not thrilling. Starting with the small stuff, one was aware of little shortcuts taken out of convenience, economy or occasional carelessness. On an airline they would likely go unnoticed, even in Business or First Class, because you don't expect much there other than real eating utensils and plates, cloth napkins and an endless gush of alcohol; on a ship, where more has been promised, these slip-ups are seen, they persist in memory (perhaps out of proportion to their importance), and many people gripe about them, though usually just among themselves. The Fruit Salad Lady chose to take her complaint public, but that was not typical. This woman caught them in one of their small missteps and, as much as I hate to allow her any credit at all, she was right -- fruit salad should be more than some cut-up pieces of melon, or it should be called something else, perhaps mélange de melons? -- I'm sure they could think of something. As a survivor of commercial kitchens I'll venture a guess as to what happened here. Fruit salad was on the menu, there was an excess of melon already cut up, probably from the previous day's lunch, and there was no reason to dive into new ingredients when they had more than enough of something already prepared to get them through today. Coincidentally I had my own little fruit-salad-like disappointment at breakfast on our eastbound crossing, worse (to me, at least) than the one I just described. The menu said fruit compote and I ordered it. I know what fruit compote is and I know how easy it is to prepare well, so easy that you might not even want to use the term "cooking" to refer to the process -- the entire recipe for a very good version could be communicated in a single sentence. What I got was a mixture of several different canned fruits, or if they were not canned they were prepared by someone who had succeeded in making them look and taste canned. In retrospect, it is interesting how disappointed I felt when the waiter slid this dish of fruit in front of me. It was only a small item out of a larger order, but it said something about the effort that was being put into the food, and it didn't feel good (this is perhaps what the Fruit Salad Lady was feeling). I ate it, I didn't complain, but I didn't order it again, and for me it took the wind out of an otherwise nicely prepared and presented meal. My partner, too, had one of these experiences. His order of pancakes arrived without syrup, an easy mistake for a waiter to make, and one easily corrected. We flagged down our server and asked for some. The tables are set nicely, even in the Britannia, so we expected a little pitcher of syrup, but we could easily have dealt with one of those little pear-shaped glass jars with the sliding spout cover that you'd find at any Denny's. Instead, the waiter returned with the uncapped, drippy plastic bottle in which the syrup had been originally packaged, reached over my partner's plate and squeezed a large quantity of it over the pancakes without so much as a word (it made an unappetizing sound when he did this), and then walked away. You don't expect something like this in an upscale venue such as this. On the surface it was just one of those rare service infractions, a harried waiter who seemed not to want to be bothered. Worse, however, was that it gave us a chance to get a look at that syrup bottle, laying bare a nasty little truth about what we were being served, something I wouldn't have bought for my own home (and I know first-hand about cutting corners on products in restaurants -- these are things you don't want the customers to see). I'd love to have had a look at the packages from which they got their bagels, English muffins and many other baked goods -- this was not high quality stuff, and I'm certain very little of it baked onboard. I recalled the scene in Brideshead Revisited in which Charles and Julia are crossing the Atlantic by ship and Charles wants tepid water in his scotch. They had no tepid water, but they did have boiling water and they did have ice water, so the waiter brought little silver pitchers of each and mixed them to the proper temperature at the table. That sort of thing wasn't going to happen to us at this meal. These may be minor events in the overall picture, but I'm going to stand my ground against anyone who thinks I'm being too picky. When you book a room on this ship you have been sold The Fantasy (even if you are eating in the Britannia), a big part of that Fantasy is the food, and when you suspect that someone is economizing at your expense or that the a member of the staff is being dismissive you are disappointed. If you are one of those people for whom food is important, then you are likely to have noticed what I noticed. It as though you are watching an otherwise-well-produced play in which one of the actors momentarily slips out of character; sadly, it is what will be remembered about the evening. Dinner was more consistently troublesome. It is the biggest food event of the day, and expectations run high. Everyone marches in dressed for the part and is seated, the waiters are delightful (really, they are), and you are given one of those menus on which so many things look good that you don't know where to begin. You order an entree, your flatware is adjusted to match the order, and the sommelier does his thing. The food arrives, and it usually looks fine. But then you dig in and it doesn't have much taste. It's not bad; it's just not as good or flavorful or interesting as it sounded on the menu. It certainly isn't thrilling. This didn't happen always, but it did happen regularly. I ordered fish often because I enjoy it but my partner does not, so I don't make it at home as frequently as I would like. For me eating a piece of fresh fish with a light sauce can be a great food experience, but ordering it from a menu can be like watching the fabled canary in a coal mine: when things aren't going just right in the kitchen it will be one of the first dishes to show it. I ordered fish on several consecutive days, hoping that my past experience was the exception, but it never got any better -- it was always somewhat dry and overdone, the sauce a bit gummy, as though it had been sitting somewhere for a while before finding its way to our table. I eventually gave up. My partner, more the carnivore, ordered several meat dishes. He had better luck than I, but there were still disappointments, several overdone items and, saddest of all, a huge and gorgeous medium-rare piece of beef that was tasteless and tough. His reactions were especially noteworthy as has he is not remotely a foodie (I've been trying to turn him into one for years, but my work is not yet done). The appetizers were a complete crapshoot, all nicely presented but unpredictable in flavor. Some were actually more canapés than appetizers, single tiny bits of food abandoned in the middle of not-so-tiny plates, surrounded by a few artfully-placed sprigs of this or that, perhaps a caper or two and a little drizzle of sauce, barely enough to taste. More than once these would arrive at our six-person table and people would stop and look at each other with a questioning smile, astonished, eyebrows raised, the thought running through everyone's head: "what on earth is this supposed to be?" What was going on here? I think it's the same thing that goes on aboard any big ship, and it brings me back to the distinction I raised earlier about whether you call the Britannia a restaurant, as Cunard does, or a dining room, as I would. This isn't a restaurant in which meals are prepared to order. This is catering (and maybe they should call the Britannia a catering hall, but I know that doesn't sound nice). Hundreds of people are being fed at once, and the only way this can be done is in assembly-line fashion. If the menu includes items that are best hot and fresh from the grill, oven or sauté pan, then you order these at your risk, as I did with my fish. (I should have known better, but I really wanted it, and I kept hoping.) There are foods that can be prepared very well this way, moist, slow-cooked things that just seem to get better when they sit in a warm oven, like ribs, chili or lasagna. But the QM2 is serving more upscale food here, so that sort of thing isn't even on the menu. I like to think that they try their best, but with this sort of menu at least some of it is always wanting. The most truly unforgivable food events on the QM2 took place on the buffet line. This was my first Cunard vacation and I assumed that the buffet would be handled the same way as I had experienced on two previous trips on another line. What I recall there, and what made complete sense to me, was that a subset of the restaurant menu was offered at the buffet. This meant that if you didn't want to bother dressing for dinner, weren't hungry at the appointed hour, or if you just weren't up to talking to your table partners for one more night, you always knew you could grab a tray and get a nice meal without any formalities. On the QM2, what was offered at the buffet was just cafeteria food, unrelated to anything going on elsewhere on the ship. We've all eaten in cafeterias, so let's be more specific: I'd place their buffet alongside what you would expect to get from a very good college food service. In other words, it was somewhat better than average, but nowhere near the top. If I had to go through the choices offered at any one meal I'd bet I could identify those items that had been pre-made or frozen prior to that meal, if not prior to the voyage. They were more numerous than they should have been. The packaged French fries were especially inexcusable, as were the omelets at breakfast, made in batches on a flat grill and then piled, overlapping, in a pan on a steam table. I would be willing to swear that most of the baked goods were produced elsewhere. Salads were meager and uninteresting. If you want to see how good a buffet can be, visit the take-out department in any one of the larger Whole Foods branches, or some other high-quality local store. The food looks so good you just want to put your face into it. It's hard to understand why Cunard can't do as well as a supermarket chain on this. As a final food point, one that applies to all of the situations I've described so far, one should consider the idea that cruise-line food is always rather uninteresting because most cruise passengers do not have well-developed or adventurous palates, and that a ship must therefore always cater to the lowest common denominator. For me, that isn't a passable excuse. We entertain regularly at home for guests with widely varying tastes, and I've cooked professionally in places that serve a clientele that is not sophisticated with respect to food. Everyone likes and appreciates good food -- the trick is to cook well while avoiding the extremes (like food that is too spicy, or too many ingredients of which some may be suspicious, like squid or beef tongue, although you can get around even this in situations where a customer has a choice). Nobody likes food that is bland or uninteresting, although many may tolerate it. Repetitive, predictive food is what children insist upon; it is not what you feed adults. Now, after all of these comments about the food, let me drag you back to the fruit salad incident and remind you how it ended. The woman was at first told that what she had been served was all that was available, but when she persisted she got what she wanted. So while there is no way that each of the several hundred people eating breakfast in the Britannia that morning could have been accommodated for a specially-composed fruit salad, the occasional isolated complaint is handled immediately and graciously. There is a little game going on here -- "standard issue" in the Britannia is dispensed to everybody in a way that strikes a bargain between nice, on the one hand, and efficient and economical, on the other, and it isn't always what you might expect, but if you are unhappy and willing to press the matter you can get it fixed with little or no pushback. What was even more surprising is that you can even do this at the buffet line. Here's what happened to us. After a few days of eating fairly heavy food, my partner just wanted some plain cooked vegetables. We were standing at the buffet line and he noticed some broccoli as part of a cluster of raw vegetables on a bed of ice, and so he asked whether he could get some. We were at first told that the broccoli was there only as part of the display for that meal, but then someone volunteered to prepare some for him. We took the rest of our food to a table, and in about five minutes a server tracked us down and presented us with a huge plate of broccoli, perfectly steamed (i.e. not overdone) -- it was the best and freshest thing we had from the buffet during the entire voyage. So you can eat at the buffet but you don't have to settle for what's on the buffet line. Who knew? I now suppose that I would not have had to put up with a number of the food disappointments if only I had pressed, but I really don't enjoy complaining and prefer to get what I have been led to expect to begin with -- one shouldn't have to make a fuss for that. Unfortunately, even the correction of her order could not have addressed the lost sense of Britishness on the Cunard fleet bemoaned by the Fruit Salad Lady (here begins one of those digressions away from food that I promised you, but in the end it all leads back). Since this was my first Cunard vacation I knew nothing of how it was in days past, but as the line is now owned by Carnival it is understandable that some things would have changed. I've traveled to the UK numerous times and that non-foodie partner of mine grew up in England, so I probably have more of a feeling for things English than most Americans. I wouldn't describe the QM2 culture as screamingly British; as on most ships the staff included many Asian and Central/Eastern European workers in addition to some from England and Australia -- all of that seems the same from one cruise line to the next. And the food, blessedly and despite all of my complaints, was better than the usual UK fare, even though that seems to have improved well beyond what I recall during my last visit some years ago. What I did find to be entirely English on this ship was its fascinating treatment of the issue of class, which to my understanding is unlike anything found on other lines. I apologize for the appeal to stereotypes, but the English do have a thing about class, and it's more than just an obsession with the Royals. It is well known to readers of English fiction (I count myself among these, and I am hard-pressed to think of an English novel in which class is not at least a minor theme), and speech is no less a class identifier today than it was for Henry Higgins. In the glorious, pre-jet-age days of transatlantic crossings, you bought a first, second or maybe third class ticket, and the ship was all carved up into separate areas for the different passengers; the structure was iron-clad, and everyone knew his place, just as it should be. That system is long-gone. Browse the websites of the various cruise lines and you'll see that you can spend anywhere from a modest sum for a small inside cabin to an eye-popping fortune for a large balconied suite, but even at these extremes you are not members of a different class and are free to wander the public areas of the ship and use whatever facilities, like lounges and specialty restaurants, for which you are prepared to pay. Cunard, now be owned by Americans but with its culture still rooted in the UK, seems to have a longing for days gone by, and has implemented an ingenious compromise between old and new when it comes to class. It is recognized that there are people who are willing to spend a lot of money on travel and who would love nothing more than to buy a first class ticket (by that very name), but that leaves the rest of us, the majority in fact, who won't or can't spend as much -- we too want to live that Fantasy, but we aren't willing to be called second-class, and without our business (and we do fill most of the cabins) the ship will not sail. How do you satisfy everyone? Those fortunate few who buy the costliest suites get to eat in the Queen's Grille, those who pay somewhat less eat at the Princess Grille, and the rest of us eat in the Britannia. The C word is never used. Note where we find ourselves now -- I promised you we would be back to food, and here we are again. The name of your restaurant is the proxy for your C word. (It's actually a little more complicated than that -- those Queen's Grille people have their own private lounge, their own sundeck and several other services, nowhere near the degree of separation that Charles and Julia enjoyed when they sailed from NY to Southampton, but enough to allow them to keep to themselves for much of the day without feeling too constrained.) An interesting thing happens when you arrive at the terminal to board the QM2, a process to be compared to the check-in lines at an airport. If you have a business class or first class ticket at JFK, you can go to a shorter, dedicated line, where you are handled less like a head of cattle. Arrive at the cruise port for a trip on the QM2 and what do they ask you? "What dining room are you eating in?" The staff in the departure terminal couldn't care less where you eat: they just want to know if you are a first class passenger so that you can be treated accordingly. So the class system lives on, even if as a slightly diluted and disguised version of its former self, and is now more tightly coupled with dining than ever. As I pointed out at the beginning of this piece, the majority of your waking hours on a transatlantic crossing will be spent doing something that involves food, so the three-tiered dining room arrangement is an economical and relatively inoffensive way of achieving a substantial separation between passengers, implementing class with a whisper. Since that separation is not absolute, I did meet people in some of the lounges and other public areas who were Princess or Queen's Grille passengers and had a chance to ask them about their experiences, so I can offer a few second-hand observations. Not surprisingly, dining at those levels is judged more highly, particularly so in that it is easier and more accepted to order anything you wish, regardless of what is on the menu. I'm told that preparations are more complex and pleasing to the eye by those who have eaten in both venues (though they were never shabby in the Britannia) but, interestingly, I heard the same comments about the food -- though it may have been prettier and presented more ceremoniously in the Grilles, it didn't reach expected levels, and I'm guessing that you'd have a more satisfying food experience at most two-star restaurants in New York than you would have in any venue on this ship. There is a subtle management of expectations here. One could imagine everyone thinking that he was going to be getting first class treatment. Most get less than what falls to top-paying guests, but nobody gets anything horrible, and the hope is that everyone will play along with whatever has been meted out to him; when that fails, adjustments will be made cheerfully. I suspect that at the core of the Fruit Salad Scandal was a different understanding by the plaintiff, on the one hand, and Cunard, on the other, about her class, and that this misunderstanding played out in the context of her food. She was partially in error when she said that the QM2 had lost its identity as a British ship. It remains quite British in its implementation of class: as a passenger eating in the Britannia, she had actually bought a very good third-class ticket, infinitely better than what that would have meant in the old days, but third class nonetheless. Of course she would never have thought of it this way. In a multi-priced setting those paying the larger tab sometimes look upon themselves as having bought a special right to be imperious, which is sad. I can only imagine that the staff felt that she hadn't paid enough for her passage to allow herself to feel so entitled or, to put it another way, that for her level of accommodation on this voyage (dare I say it?) she didn't know her place. Cunard is responsible for such misunderstandings, as it is they who have tiptoed around the class issue in an attempt to please everyone optimally and still keep on budget. It is they who set the expectations. I hate to say it, but I do appear to now be defending this woman, even if only in part. She took them at their word -- she was told that she would get something excellent and that's what she demanded, but behind the scenes they thought that they could give her something that was just OK, and this time they weren't going to get away with it. She was unhappy, and in the end so was the waiter. Her table companions were the collateral damage. If the total dining experience is driven by more than just the food, then it stands to reason that the Cunard would do all it could to get as many of those other pieces right as well. This comes through in the design of the eating spaces and in the management of service, both big determiners of how much we enjoy ourselves when we eat, and both done very well. Cunard goes a step further, however, in its handling of the dining dress code, and that merits some examination as a final point. All of the ships I've been on have had some version of this, but it wasn't until I was several days into our voyage that I started to give some real thought as to how our dress relates to how we feel about the way we are fed. A particular level of formality is declared for dinner on each day at sea. Even the lowest level requires a sport coat at dinner for men (no tie, though), and the highest is formal wear or at least a dark suit and tie. Sailing on the QM2 is for most people a special event, and it's fun to make it more so by dressing up. On my previous two- or three-week cruises on other lines, I recall perhaps two formal dinners during the entire cruise, so I would have expected one formal night on this one-week crossing, certainly no more than two. On the QM2, there were four formal nights out of seven. Formal shouldn't be the norm; it should be a rarity, a special experience, a celebration, and to do it otherwise begs an explanation. I thought that there were two motives here, one related to class, the other to food, and both help fill out our understanding of those issues. If you would like as many people as possible on the ship to feel like they are having a first-class experience, then get them to dress up as much as you can -- then they'll have that experience at their own expense. Going beyond that to the special case of food, people who have dressed formally for dinner may be more likely to judge their dining experience as excellent than those who have not. In this, Cunard is playing the cognitive dissonance card, which goes something like this: "if I paid good money to be on the QM2 and then went to the trouble and expense of dressing formally for this dinner, then that dinner must have been a good one." My roles in the scene (what I paid and how I dressed) are then consistent, or consonant, with my perception of Cunard's role (how they fed me), and I would have felt uncomfortable had it been any other way. I believe that Cunard attempts to stack the decks of passenger opinion about both the general aura of the ship as well as the quality of the food by railroading as many people as possible into dressing up on what I found to be an annoying number of evenings. If I'm going to put on a dinner jacket, it's got to be for better food than they were dishing out. It was more than I was willing to do, and I admit to being a tuxedo scofflaw. I didn't bring one (I was going to be traveling for 4 weeks in Europe and wasn't about to drag one around with me), nor could I bring myself to rent one at their extortionary rates, so I appeared in a sport coat and tie regardless of the day's code. I thought I looked pretty good, and well matched to what I was being served, but I have to admit that I was uncomfortable with my transgression, minor as it was (in my defense the original plan was to have eaten at the buffet on formal nights, but after experiencing the food there I didn't want to do that -- I had never intended to attend those dinners in the Britannia at all). Nobody ever refused to seat me or asked me to leave the table, despite various printed threats. I was surprised at the small number of conscientious clothes objectors at dinner, by the way -- overall this was a very compliant bunch. Afternoon tea was an especially interesting event from the perspective of food, class and clothing. Cunard provides passengers with guidelines for acceptable dress in the ship's public areas, not just for dinner, and I thought that those guidelines were reasonable: casual is fine, but not too casual. High Tea on the QM2, however, is a classy event that just begs for some formality. This is not a Carnival ship on a four-day, alcohol-sodden, Hawaiian-shirted bender through the Bahamas -- it's a Cunard liner crossing the Atlantic, which in itself means there is some history behind it, and it bears an iconic name and a certain cache, even if the ship is in its second edition. Cunard appeals, and rightly I think, to those who would love to relive the glorious past, and the dress guidelines help set the tone. The day we appeared for Tea at the Queen's Room, a large ballroom where the ritual is staged, there was a squadron of servers (I think they were even wearing white gloves) weaving through tables and chairs with tea and coffee service, as well as mounds of those supremely tasteless, crustless little English finger sandwiches that never have enough butter or cream cheese. To our right were two fifty-something women who were nothing less than drop-dead gorgeous; perfect makeup and hair, stylish suits, tasteful jewelry, fabulous shoes, it was all I could do not to stare at them. They ate their little sandwiches, sipped their tea and spoke in a proper inside voice. They were doing this right. At the table on our left, slouched in his chair, was a man in a T-shirt from some sports team, a baseball cap, flip-flops and shorts. It was an incongruous vista. The Four-O-Clock-Tea-On-The-Queen-Mary thing may be a great, genteel, civilized Fantasy but, like a little girl's tea party, it only works if everybody plays his part, and you cannot rely upon that happening. Cunard set the stage and pointed everyone in the right direction, but the passengers were part of the scene and they didn't all follow through. This is a really big point: Cunard is not responsible for every disappointment you may experience on this ship. (I haven't forgotten my own clothing faux pas at formal dinners, to which I have already pleaded guilty; I've told myself that mine was only a minor infraction, and I hope I didn't diminish some other passenger's evening, but the fact is that I may have done so and contributed to someone else's disappointment. ) Again, one must be reasonable about expectations. If you are just dying to immerse yourself into that Charles and Julia Fantasy, you may find that it just doesn't come together for you (at least not in the Britannia), unless you are one of those people who can ignore a lot of what is going on around you. As we met people on this ship over the course of our two transatlantic crossings, we could not help but be impressed by the number of repeat customers, loyal passengers who love it and have been on it as many as ten times or more, big numbers when you consider that the QM2 is still fairly young. Some of those had views on dining similar to my own, but many didn't seem to care and whatever disappointments they had had with the food weren't enough to keep them from coming back (and perhaps some of those who did care simply did not return). As I said at the outset, what you will get on this ship is still far better than what happens on an airline, so this is not surprising. But if the food scene on the QM2 isn't so bad as to keep me from returning the next time I want to travel directly to Europe, a trip for which there are no other sailing alternatives, it was wanting enough to make me think twice about sailing on this line for a more standard cruise itinerary with several ports of call, where there is lots of competition among the various lines -- I know that there is room for improvement, and I'd like to see what someone else can do. If having one's expectations met is key to enjoying one of these sailings, then the next trip will be made with eyes open a bit wider. My intent here was to help potential passengers experience fewer surprises, rather than to discourage them from choosing this ship. Remember that if you choose a Britannia cabin you do so at a somewhat lower class than others -- I knew that when I booked my ticket, but I didn't get the full picture until I was there. On a ship of this size and with these relative numbers of passengers and crew, realize that not everyone can be treated as well as the brochures would expect you to believe, but the trip should still be comfortable and fun. If something happens that you really don't like, then you can complain (politely, I hope) and it will probably be addressed. While finishing this review a friend whom I had met on our voyage told me of a woman seated at his table on a previous trip who repeatedly sent back salads because the lettuce wasn't properly chilled, and insisted on bringing her own floral arrangement to the dinner table because she didn't like the standard issue. She was his Fruit Salad Lady; yes, there are more of them out there. If you are inclined to this sort of thing, then either try to get over yourself and stop making your fellow passengers uncomfortable, or instead buy a first class, Queen's Grille ticket, which will kick you up to a level of service at which you are less likely to experience such disappointments, and if you are still unhappy you will have paid a price that entitles you to be silly, obnoxious and unreasonable -- the staff in that venue expects that sort of thing. Realize, too, that you and your shipmates are all players in setting a scene over which Cunard does not have complete control -- i.e. you are not only there to receive, but also to give -- so be considerate, be a good sport and play along. Note to self: bring that tuxedo next time, don't be a grinch, and dress up with the rest. As for Cunard, I offer this as a substitute for the all-too-brief post-sailing standardized survey that I filled out after both of my trips on the QM2, expansions beyond the simple check-marks that were requested on just two or three questions about food; they needed more feedback than that, so now they have it. I only wish that they could find a better balance between what they are prepared to offer to whom, and what they intend to imply, if not promise to all. It would be a good thing to keep those fruit salad incidents to a minimum. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
This westbound transatlantic crossing represented the third and final segment of a 22 day voyage. So after being acclimated to the routine of the ship it's a different perspective from someone just coming on board. During the ... Read More
This westbound transatlantic crossing represented the third and final segment of a 22 day voyage. So after being acclimated to the routine of the ship it's a different perspective from someone just coming on board. During the layover in Southampton I had taken one of the in-transit tours offered. Upon returning to the Ocean Terminal there appears to be some delay in boarding arriving passengers, but the in-transit people get to go to the front of the queues and re-board. The first dinner on board was Elegant Casual, but everyone seemed to have taken the effort to dress a notch or two better than casual. Thankfully the change of passengers meant that there were now six at a table for six in the Princess Grill. My new table mates were an American couple from Savannah, Georgia and a British couple. We could enjoy the first of several evenings of civil political discussions since British citizens are not personally involved in American politics and vice versa. Service however was noticeably slower after a change of some crew members at Southampton. Either they were short staffed or the new waiters need to learn their roles. First day at sea was a beautiful afternoon with many people using the promenade deck chairs but, as it was late September, are bundled up to some degree. There was a storm to the north of us causing swells and the ship was pitching but not nearly as much as it had been on the EB when the pitching was causing the props to cavitate. The Cruise Critic meet and greet on Cunard ships is traditionally held on the first sea day, 2PM, in the Commodore Club. One member and her husband came. We had a nice conversation but the gathering of 10-20 that I've heard to usually meet on the QM2 does not happen. I can only say that the three of us came to the announced place at the appointed day and hour. Daytime entertainment/diversions: For anyone who has an interested in the history of Atlantic ocean liners this voyage had been tailor made. However on this segment the Insights speaker, David Drummond, doesn't have the same passion for his topic as did Bill Miller on the eastbound crossing. Some passengers thought it was too much of the same thing -- two speakers following each other on essentially the same topics. Later however the Insights lecture switched topics that ran the gamut of historical events to popular culture: Shackleton's attempt to reach the South Pole, Billy Wilder films, New York as shown in films, and US singer Frank Sinatra. One activity offered on a sea day is a tour of the Britannia galley. If one has never seen it, don't miss it. The galley is an engineering and logistical marvel. Afternoon tea is a Cunard tradition at sea that I hope never ends. It's just an enjoyable way to spend some time with fellow passengers and do ask for a scone! The scones on QM2 were heavenly. Evening activities: On these multiple-segment voyages the evening entertainment and ball themes tend to re-cycle. I think the first formal night is always the Black and White Ball. One evening was the Big Band Ball which combined the Queens Room and Royal Court Theatre orchestras. For dancers a night with a live big band is not something that is common even on land today. On this crossing the evenings also offered Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts presentations of Much Ado About Nothing and The Canterbury Tales. These were abridged readings but a welcome change from the production shows that were already seen in one form or another on the previous voyage segments. One night event that I had anticipated an a transatlantic crossing was a chance to see the stars under the guidance of the Royal Astronomical Society. Unfortunately we did not have even one evening without cloud cover so the telescopes were never brought on deck. A comment on something really dumb by Cunard: It's common for there to be a Captain's cocktail party on a formal night. And, for those who have reached Cunard World Club gold status or higher, an invitation to the CWC party. During the British Isles tour, I had received invitations imprinted with my name and stateroom number but specified, ''for guests boarding at Southampton and Cherbourg''. Didn't they know that I had boarded in New York? What was the point of sending out invitations addressed to those who didn't qualify? During the crossing the clocks are set back on five nights at 2AM ship's time. Manually change your laptop clock and you'll see time zones that most of us didn't know existed. As the ship neared Newfoundland a flock of sea birds followed along our starboard side. Either people throw them food or the motion of the ship stirs up the sea critters that they feed upon. It's just another wonderful sight at sea -- especially from the aft hot tubs! On QM2 the aft pools give a wonderful 180deg view of the sea. The sea birds kept following us throughout the afternoon. They would drift in the air foils and occasionally skim the surface of the ocean to scoop up a snack. This afternoon I met a British woman who is travelling on the WB with her husband for their first voyage of any kind. They wanted to try a TA and thoroughly enjoyed it but they had already arranged to fly back after their stay in New York. I was really fortunate to have been on the QM2 for almost three weeks. To do only the TA, seven days is really a very short time to really enjoy the QM2. On this WB trip, almost half the passengers were British, about one third American, and the others from all over the globe. I noticed a difference in the evening dress of the passengers. On this WB trip more men wore black tie formal wear than dark business suits but the women tend to wear short cocktail dresses rather than the long dresses that were seen on the EB trip. Perhaps it's British cultural practice to reserve long dresses for white tie formals. Sunday morning on QM2 still offers the opportunity for Catholic Mass. Fewer ships carry a priest on board and I'm grateful that Cunard still does. One reason they might continue to do so could be the makeup of the crew. Over 600 crew members are from the Philippines, a country with a large demographic of devout Roman Catholics. Being able to practice one's religion while working on QM2 may be a tremendous incentive to sign on with Cunard rather than with another line. The last two days on board a dense fog developed. It's quite an extraordinary sight to see a ship of this magnitude enveloped in fog so thick that her bow was partially shrouded when viewed from the Deck 11 observation area. It casts a beautiful ethereal effect on the open decks. QM2's fog horn is almost as impressive as her A flat whistle. The fog horn and motion of the ship give that unmistakable feel of the sea. To borrow the title from the sound track of the 1997 Titanic film: Unwilling to Leave, Unable to Stay. On the last sea day Captain Oprey spent an hour in the Library autographing memorabilia -- probably the only part of the Captain's job that sucks. But having the Captain sign off on a souvenir makes it more special. On disembarkation day an early breakfast is scheduled 6-8AM, so even those choosing the Self Help disembarkation get a change to have a full breakfast before leaving. Arrival in New York, with the vessel shrouded in heavy fog at dawn, was a sight that no camera could really capture. As we approached the Verrazano Narrows bridge only the illuminated footings could be seen at first. As we neared the bridge to slip underneath, the bridge lights appeared through the fog as if some spectral gate had formed to frame us. Despite the advantages of radar and GPS, steering a ship like this with no visibility must still be a difficult thing since familiar landmarks cannot be seen for reference. QM2 docks at her usual berth in Red Hook, not the west side of Manhattan. Either way, we still would not have a view of Lady Liberty. Apparently she hasn't paid her ConEdison bill because she's dark. In summary, this had been a very relaxing and very educational 22 days on board Queen Mary 2. I had noted wear and tear in an earlier review but that has since been addressed in the November/December refit. That, and three other negatives that keep me from rating this voyage five stars. One being the slow restaurant service after the crew change at Southampton. Two, the PG Maitre d' not reseating me on the middle voyage segment as requested. And three, the registry change to Bermuda will lower standards. On this voyage the QM2 was touring her home country. Its citizens were immensely proud of her and that she was theirs. How soon was this to end with the registry change from Great Britian to Bermuda. Her radio call letters GBQM -- which told the world where she came from and who she was -- would be replaced by the meaningless alphabet soup of ZCEF6. She's forever lost something special, and I think I'd rather remember her as she was. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We selected the cruise for the itinerary and were not disappointed. Amsterdam, Zeebrugge and Dublin were as expected. While Torshavn, Faroes was interesting the scenery while cruising was the prize. Iceland was interesting, very like ... Read More
We selected the cruise for the itinerary and were not disappointed. Amsterdam, Zeebrugge and Dublin were as expected. While Torshavn, Faroes was interesting the scenery while cruising was the prize. Iceland was interesting, very like remoter parts of Scotland. Cruising by Greenland was magnificent and we were blessed with the weather. St John's Newfoundland was interesting, while Halifax Nova Scotia proved to be well worth a visit. The ship was very good; the food was the best; the staff were first class as you would expect. Sadly, the entertainment was a disappointment. Few production shows for a 17 day trip; soloists who thought it entertaining to tell us about the children and were full of their own importance. The real let down was the disembarkation in New York. While problems can happen, there is no excuse for not keeping the passengers informed as to why things were running over two hours late - there was a gap of over an hour between some announcements. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Wonderful ship just too many people when trying to get off! With over 3000 passengers, having to 'tender off' at a number of ports was a real problem. Embarkation at Southampton was smooth, quick and impressive. ... Read More
Wonderful ship just too many people when trying to get off! With over 3000 passengers, having to 'tender off' at a number of ports was a real problem. Embarkation at Southampton was smooth, quick and impressive. Disembarking at New York took almost 4 hours!! and we were then transported to JFK and left, 8 hours before flight back to England. US immigration service should ask Southampton how to do it!! As always a very attentive crew and English Captain Nash had a wonderful sense of humour. Food was typical Princess quality; entertainment was weak - too many individual 'world famous' but unknown acts. We missed big dance and song routines. The destinations were excellent, pity about the weather which prevented 2nd visit to Greenland. Loved Lerwick in Shetlands and Halifax in Nova Scotia. Nuuk was our introduction to Greenalnd... very very cold and no tours offered. It was interesting to walk round the town but hard to believe it is a capital city. We're glad to have done this cruise - it made us realise the benefits of choosing small ships. But the big ship on this ocassion ensured we survived the awful conditions you might expect from the North Atlantic. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We really enjoyed all the ports on this trip,especially Lerwick, Nuuk and Halifax. Have been on Crown Princess before and think it is just too big for some of the ports on this trip. Of the 7 we managed to get to(we missed 1 ... Read More
We really enjoyed all the ports on this trip,especially Lerwick, Nuuk and Halifax. Have been on Crown Princess before and think it is just too big for some of the ports on this trip. Of the 7 we managed to get to(we missed 1 Greenland port due to bad weather) we could walk off only once, the rest were tendered or used shuttle buses. Not great for moving over 3000 people. Food was the usual Princess fare. We liked all the trivia quizzes, and of the evening shows the best was the tribute to Cole Porter. Didn't go to many of the individual "star" shows. Crew were as friendly and polite as ever. Cruise Director was a bit of a mystery - we didn't meet one passenger who'd ever seen her in daylight - very unlike our last one on Sea Princess. We were flying back from New York at 7.30pm so decided to take the tour of the city. This meant we were about first to disembark and missed the big queues. We had our luggage on the coach and were dropped at the airport at our check in time - well worth the extra cost Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
EURODAM CRUISE REVIEW - AUGUST 24 - SEPTEMBER 10, 2011 ROUTE OF THE VIKINGS - TRANSATLANTICI am Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. I am a retired city attorney and Edith an unretired homemaker who previously worked in health ... Read More
EURODAM CRUISE REVIEW - AUGUST 24 - SEPTEMBER 10, 2011 ROUTE OF THE VIKINGS - TRANSATLANTICI am Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. I am a retired city attorney and Edith an unretired homemaker who previously worked in health services. This was our 28th cruise, since 1999, including one river cruise. Without providing a boring laundry list of destinations, we have sailed in Tahiti and the Galapagos, around and in South America; to Alaska; made the usual Caribbean, Baltic, Mediterranean cruises and several Transatlantic crossings.Why This Cruise?It is reaching the point in our cruising life that we are having a little difficulty in finding new areas to explore. We will probably never do a Caribbean or solely Mediterranean cruise again, although we have two more Transatlantic crossings set which start in the Med. We have not done any cruises in Asia, mainly because we do not enjoy super long air transits.But this cruise had appeal because of its itinerary; Amsterdam, Bruges, Dublin, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Canada, and then a New York arrival. Edith was worried about cold weather, but after a hot Phoenix summer, I welcomed it. We had two prior short cruises with HAL and liked their professionalism, the ship-shape quality of their vessels; attributable to a line that has been sailing for more than 135 years; and the friendly attitude of their largely Indonesian staff. So we called our travel agent and made our plans.Pre-cruise PlanningEarly on in our cruising life, we learned the benefit of arranging as many of our own shore excursions as possible. We have found that you get a much better value most of the time. Alaska is an exception, since the excursions are limited, and the pricing is the same. On occasions we have found ships' tours that were unique and were reasonably priced. Somewhat surprisingly, Crystal Cruises offers some of the most reasonable excursions, which like everything else Crystal offers, were first class also. But we often have had privately booked experiences which, when compared with our fellow passengers tales of ship's excursions brought back on board, were evidently much better. It takes some effort, but through exhaustive web searches as well as information provided on the Cruise Critic Roll Call site, we have not only found excellent trips, but people to take them with. We spent a good deal of time lining up excursions for every stop except Amsterdam (we know the city and will use local transportation) and Nanortalik in Greenland, where the town itself arranges the sightseeing for everyone.Clothes planning involved some consideration. We are going to Arctic Circle climates, and we will be out of doors everywhere, so we needed to bring winter type clothing (or at least the Phoenix version of winter clothing). This included my Aran Island wool sweater that I bought on that marvelous island during an Ireland visit a number of years ago. I also brought a storm jacket acquired in Canada. I opted not to bring my tux for what we thought were four formal nights. This turned out to be a five formal night cruise. Edith uses some imagination to prepare for formal nights, and was more concerned about warm clothing for our outdoor excursions in chilly climes. We were a bit surprised when we got everything we thought we would need in one suitcase and one small duffel bag apiece as checked in luggage, along with back packs and small carry on bags with the travel necessities. ON OUR WAYBritish Air flies non-stop from Phoenix to London every day, so we booked them and splurged a little with Premium Economy. We use The Best Travel Store for our air purchases on overseas flights, and have been very satisfied. Our flight left at 8:00 P.M. and arrived on London at 1:00 P.M. We had booked a B&B in Dover called Maison Dieu, not because it was French, but because it was on Maison Dieu Drive in Dover. It is some distance from Heathrow to Dover, and while there are trains, it would have involved changing stations, hauling our luggage, in London. The B&B owners recommended Coastal Cars, and although we tried to find fellow cruisers making that trip around that time, we had to settle for a private car which cost £100.00. We were met promptly and, after buying UK pounds at the Barclay Bank ATM (which does not charge fees for Bank of America cardholders), drove down to our B&B for the overnight stay. Once there we got in touch with Bobi, our travel agent who was making the same cruise and staying at a Ramada near Dover, to join her and her cruising companion for dinner. The Maison Dieu is reasonably priced at £75.00, and the owners very friendly and helpful. Breakfast the next day was fine, and we did a little shopping in Dover before going down to the harbor to look at Eurodam docked there. Dover is a nice little town, easily traversed on foot. We loaded up a cab to go to the pier and boarded with minimal delay.EURODAMThis is a fairly new ship, having made its initial voyage in 2008. It is one of the two largest in HAL's fleet, carrying just over 2100 passengers and with a gross tonnage of 86,200 for a decent space ratio of 41.05. Holland America seems to favor a "mature" ambience, with dark wood walls and furniture, warm colors for their carpets, solid sofas and chairs, lots of reproductions of old Dutch art and artifacts. The lower exterior up to deck four is black and all above that white. The layout is normal. Deck 1 is mostly staterooms, with the front desk, the excursion and future cruise desks and a small atrium. Decks 2 and 3 are the main activity centers with access to the main dining room aft on both decks, and the theater forward. Deck 2 also has the Pinnacle Restaurant, a specialty restaurant open only for dinner with a $25.00 per person surcharge. The store area is a little unusual in that, except for one separate high end jewelry store, the display tables for all merchandise are in one open area. An open steel mesh curtain is lowered to create an aisle when the shops are closed. There is also a "Culinary Center" for cooking "shows"; a small motion picture theater, the casino and the usual array of bars and lounges. One room is dedicated to the computer "Learning Center". Decks 4 through 8 are virtually all staterooms as is Deck 10. Deck 9 has the typical "Lido" Buffet, swimming pool and spa-fitness center set-up. The pool can be covered, and was heated so that even in our cold climates, swimming was possible. There are three elevator banks, and the one midships has two outboard facing glass elevators on each side. For some reason these seemed to be the fastest and most convenient of all. One of the aft group of four elevators was out of commission the entire cruise.OUR STATEROOMOur stateroom, and it really deserved that designation, was one of the true "highlights" of the cruise. It was number 7079, and there are only 3 others like it on this ship. They are Nos. 7080, 6113 and 6118. Grab one if you can! This is the "Superior Verandah" class, but what makes these 4 cabins so neat is their special configuration. Eurodam widens out for the aft quarter of its length. These cabins are immediately in front of that "bulge", with the result that the verandah, in addition to its normal outward facing aspect, has an angled aspect looking forward down the whole length of the ship. This gave room for two comfortable arm chairs with ottomans, in addition to the normal side chairs and table. It also created a triangular area in the cabin for additional storage of stuff, if needed. Not that more space was really needed, we had plenty.There were three closets, with the center unit containing the safe, several shelves and one shirt hanger bar. Edith and I split the other two, and had plenty of room and hangers. The bathroom had a Jacuzzi tub/ shower, a separate shower and two sinks with Corian counters, plenty of room between the sinks, a shelf below and two corner toiletry shelves, providing more than enough space. The main cabin had two desks, one opposite the bed, really more of a dressing table with its lighted makeup/shaving mirror; the other to one side of the bed with its own window onto the verandah. One dressing table/desk had six drawers, the other two. The side desk also had the TV screen and the small refrigerator. There were two bedside tables, and each side of the bed had its own directed halogen reading lamp on a flexible arm for easy nighttime reading in bed. There was a full couch (which converted to a bed), an arm chair in addition to the two desk chairs and another cabinet which held two extra couch blankets, which Edith enjoyed.. There was also a decent sized coffee table in front of the couch. There was a large picture above the couch, two others on the wall next to the bed, a mirror above the bed and a full length mirror next to the bathroom door. There was room for all our items and enough space to get around comfortably. All in all this was one of the best staterooms we have ever had.PORTS OF CALLAmsterdamWe had spent several days on two occasions in this delightful, sophisticated city before this trip. Therefore we opted for the hop-on-hop-off canal trip, purchasing the all day tickets for 20 € apiece at the very modern cruise terminal. This building is within walking distance from the Central Station Plaza from which all the canal boats and most of the trams and buses originate. We actually boarded our canal boat closer to the cruise terminal and had a nice harbor view before we reached the central station area. The weather was nice; mixed clouds and sunshine and in the 70s and we had a fine time taking most of the canal routes (with some duplication) and enjoying the marvelous Amsterdam architecture. We stopped for a quick bite for lunch (having had a full breakfast on board to prepare ourselves for a full day), and at the Flea Market which was a disappointment. If you have never been to Amsterdam, we would recommend the Van Gogh, Stedelijk and Rijksmusems. The latter is huge, and probably cannot be properly seen in one day, but the first two are great on their own, and close to each other. Transportation by tram is fast, cheap and clean. If one does the canal thing, there are several companies, but only one hop-on-hop-off, and this is the recommended one for a thorough view of the city.BrugesZeebrugge is actually the present day port for Bruges, which was a major port and trading post itself up until the 17th century when its harbor silted in and caused an increasingly rapid decline which resulted in the city becoming almost "frozen" in time. The construction of the port in Zebrugge, about 12 miles away led to a gradual increase of tourist traffic, which by now has become the main focus of the city, showing off its late medieval and early renaissance architecture, easily accessible on foot or via its small canal system.Our plan had been to take a taxi arranged by Bobi, into town with instructions to return later. Unfortunately we waited in the rain for almost ½ an hour and no taxi. Edith and I were discouraged by the rain and returned to the ship. But since the daily schedule of events was pretty barren, we decided to take the shuttle bus provided by HAL to the train station in a nearby town called Blankenburg, and were on time to catch a cheap round trip fare to Bruges. We arrived shortly before noon, walked around this very quaint and attractive town, took the 30 minute canal tour, had a real Belgian waffle, very light, crisp and tasty with powdered sugar, and coffee for 6 € and wandered into the main square, always on the lookout for Belgian chocolate We noted that the restaurant prices for a regular lunch were very, very high; e.g. € 45 for bouillabaisse. I recall paying about 20 € in Cannes ( in the area where it was first made over 2000 years ago) in 2003. On the way back we explored Blankenburg, which had a nice shopping street and more reasonable prices. DublinHere we had two separate excursions, one routine, the other most unique and surprising. On this quiet Sunday morning we took a bus tour of the city provided by our travel agency. It was pleasant, and we saw some lovely Georgian neighborhoods with their vibrant, differently colored front doors. We then went to Trinity College, which is very striking. But since the line was very long for a glimpse of the Book of Kells, we all opted to return to the ship at about noon. There we, and another couple met John Kenny, who runs Hidden Wicklow. John loaded us into his Land Rover and off we were to Wicklow County, a very rolling, hilly and rural county south of Dublin. John is a young man who spends his weekdays as a barrister, drafting legislation for the Irish Parliament. He has lived in Wicklow since birth, less a few overseas trips, and knows absolutely everything about his home area. We carefully avoided all the normal tourist areas, stopping off first at a little known graveyard, still being used, but also holding stone tablets identical to those in Estonia, all carved by Vikings in about 850 A.D. We then traveled through the beautiful countryside, with lush valleys and raw, bog encrusted hillsides, where John cut us some turf, and told us how it was used in fires. We visited an ancient monastery with a marvelous tower where the only door was at least 12 feet off the ground to facilitate repelling invaders. We went to a graveyard for German airmen who accidentally, (or maybe not), overshot England in the bombing raids of WWII and were interned safely in neutral Ireland. At this spot he provided us with lunch; very nicely done sandwiches, and a fruit cobbler made of a local berry which had to be picked, one berry at a time, from the local woods. John had done both the picking and the cooking and it was delicious! We visited "Killruddery", the home of the ninth Earl of Meath (although no such titles are used in Ireland) This was not just a beautiful, stately home, but also a working farm with a wonderful vegetable garden. The home is still occupied by the family, who welcome locals and visitors, and also lent the grounds for concerts, one of which was to be held that day. We traveled through a quiet deep farming valley where John said the same few families had farmed the land for many hundreds of years. The sun was setting over a lovely view of Dublin as we returned to the ship after more than seven hours of marvelous insight into one of Ireland's most beautiful and historical counties. John is a superb guide, and this ranks with Patrick Watt's tour of the Falkland Island as one of the most memorable we have ever done.Faroe IslandsWhere? Well, the Faroe Islands are 600 miles north of Dublin (so we had a sea day, as we did between Bruges and Dublin) and 250 miles north and slightly west of the northwestern tip of Scotland. We docked in the capital, Torshavn, and joined a group again lined up by Bobi. This time the driver appeared in his Mercedes van and 10 of us took off to see this remote country. Perhaps not surprisingly, the countryside resembles both the Western Highlands of Scotland and Iceland, about 300 miles to the west. Torshavn [that's right - no "e"] holds about 17,000 people and the total population of all the islands is about 48,000. The three main islands are roughly parallel to each other. Torshavn is on Stremoy, Vafgar, where the airport is located is to the west and connected by a long tunnel. We drove up Stremoy, and crossed a short bridge to Eysturoy, to the east passing through several small towns. Few, if any people were around, and our guide, who spoke pretty good English, said most worked in Torshavn, or were out fishing, which still is an important part of the economy, despite some growth in information technology. The Faroese are Scandinavian. The islands have a large degree of political autonomy, some legal ties to Denmark, and the people speak both Faroese and Danish. The Danish Krone is the currency. The farms raise mostly sheep, and are attractive in the Scandinavian style. It purportedly is very windy, but was not bad when we got out of our van and wandered around some quiet towns. The Faroe Islands would not precisely fill one's concept of a dream vacation spot, but have a quiet charm and barren beauty.IcelandIn contrast, Iceland is a very interesting, starkly beautiful, surprising and vibrant country. We spent four days there in June 2005, and greatly enjoyed it. The offerings for excursions were many, but based on the fact that we had been to Gullfoss Waterfall, the Geysirs (an original Icelandic word, spelled that way) and the Blue Lagoon, we opted to rent a car, persuaded another couple to join us and went to two small towns, Akranes and Borgarnes, and then the Thingvellier National Park. Akranes is a small fishing village a few miles north of Reykjavik and offered a nice view of the water as well as a lighthouse. Borgarnes has the Cultural Center, which provides a narrated guide through Icelandic Viking history. Their written records go back to about 850 A.D. and the entire show, costing about $15.00 per person, was fascinating. We then left for Thingvellier, and made a few false directional starts, but arrived there not too late to enjoy it. Basically it has two claims It is the site of the first true parliament in the western world. Everyone would meet on an annual basis and make community decisions. It also marks the division between the two major tectonic plates in the northern hemisphere. There is an attractive visitor center and marvelous views out over the plains and a nearby lake. All in all it is a striking place. While driving we noted the truly beautiful Icelandic farms, widely spaced over rolling hills, and populated with sheep and graceful Icelandic horses, whose bloodlines have been kept pure for over 1000 years, and whose special stride enables them to carry people over the rough volcanic ground in the smoothest possible style. This is indeed a country in which one could enjoyably spend a lot more time; although it is expensive.GreenlandIt could be said that we spent two days in this icy wilderness. The first day was spent cruising into Prince Christian Sound, and the second in the town of Nanortalik. We had not expected much when the cruise guide said we would be cruising the Sound, but it turned out to be very striking, sailing almost due West, up a fjord-like body of water, sometimes fairly close to steep, snow covered shores with frequent waterfalls, and a view of the actual ice cap that covers most of this huge, virtually empty island. The Sound gives way to other water bodies at its west end, and on one of these we stopped to view a small Inuit community called Aqappilattoq. The captain sent in a small boat from the ship, not one of the large tenders, but a Zodiac type of craft, delivering pizza, we were told. Several small boats from the village came out and circled us, with their crews and passengers - 3-5 at the most - cheerfully waving at us. We then exited south to the open sea and proceeded, on a full sea day, around the southern tip of Greenland and up its West coast to Nanortalik.This is a town of about 1500 people, mostly Inuit. They are visited by about 3 cruise ships a year, and set up a small event for these visits. For $20.00 US per person we were given entre into a small choir presentation at a local church and a coffee, cake and dance show at the local community center. The choir sang in a very pretty Lutheran church, and the group consisted of four women, five men and the choir director; who led the initial song with an organ chord, but conducted the balance a capella. The singing was in Greenlandic, but a Danish man gave short introductions for some of the songs. It was very beautiful and a most delightful experience. The coffee, cake and dance show was enthusiastic and pleasant, if not great dance; mostly by young people. We strolled around the town; looking at the small neat homes, mostly with flowers in their front windows, as we saw in the Faroes and Iceland. There was a gift shop, but it was so small and crowded (we were there only from 7:00 to 2:00 P.M. and had to tender back and forth) that it was extremely difficult to see, much less ponder the purchase of anything. The prices were quite high also. We reboarded in time for lunch at the buffet, which we shared with about 50-60 children from town, invited to see the ship. I am sure they had a marvelous time, especially the child who managed to smuggle his puppy aboard, to the great delight of the buffet staff. It was a mite chilly on shore, but not really too bad, and we considered this a delightful and very different port.St. John's NewfoundlandSt John's Newfoundland [not to be confused with St. John (no "s") New Brunswick], is much larger and more settled that we expected. We had envisioned Newfoundland as rather desolate, rainy and windswept, but were surprised by the very well kept, up to date ambience of this city, which has an urban area population of close to 200,000. The fishing economy collapsed in 1990, but new oil and gas operations have given the area a strong economic boost. We were transported to the airport Thrifty, a trip which took about 15 minutes, to my surprise. There our group, consisting of Edith and myself and a Winnipeg family , parents and 12 year old daughter, boarded our rental car and drove about 30 some mikes to Bay Bull. Why it is called this and not Bull Bay, I have no idea. But here we noarded the Gatherall's family catamaran to go out in search of whales and puffins. There were about 20 of us on board, which gave us all enough room and ability to walk about when we were able to in the Atlantic swells. We turned up whales just outside the bay in the Atlantic after a 20 minute ride and were able to get close and follow three fin backs for a half hour or so. The do not come as far out of the water as the Pacific humpbacks but are very large and impressive when seen from our close viewpoint. We then moved over to Witless Bay and circumnavigated one of the four puffin ecological preserve islands in this bay. Puffins are actually a lot smaller bird than we imagined, but their bright orange, parrot- like beaks make them very attractive. They came quite close to the boat, landed in the water, dove quickly for fish, and then flew to the island to dive back and disappear into the bright green ground cover plants where their chicks awaited dinner. We were told they mated for life, and lived about 16 years. This was a fascinating show. The crew was amusing and informative. Most inhabitants of Newfoundland are of Irish, Scots and/or English heritage, with the Irish being very apparent in Melinda, our guide. We had hoped to see the Salmonier Nature Reserve on our return but unfortunately it closed at 3:00 P.M., so we drove back to St.John's by a different route, and enjoyed seeing the area. The whale and puffin trip was well worth it, however.HalifaxHere we had another private tour arranged by Blue Diamond Tours, a small local company. We chose to stay away from Peggy's Cove because there were two other cruise ships in Halifax that day, so a total of more than 6000 people would be traveling around, many of them to Peggy's Cove. Our excursion company had offered a wide selection of options on their website, and we chose the Eastern Shore. There were six of us in a nicely sized van, one couple from Australia and the other from Las Vegas. Our driver had been born in Halifax and was extremely knowledgeable. We crossed on one of two bridges to the Dartmouth side and went south down the harbor and the east along the coast. Our first stop was at a long public beach, where there was a good ocean surf, and some surfers in the water with wet suits. I went out to the shore edge to test the temperature, and found it to be pretty reasonable, not too cold for swimming for someone like myself who is used to the cold California Pacific and even North Sea Danish coast. We then went to a small port town and out onto a pier to see the lobster boats and lobster traps piled up everywhere. We next visited a wonderful farm house of about 900 square feet, which at one point housed a couple with their 13 daughters! The youngest of these had died in her 90s a few years ago. From there we went to a Heritage site, where the local people had restored about 11 various farm buildings to their status in the early 20s and 30s. We also were fed in a "cookhouse"; a meal with excellent soup and marvelous baked beans. We spent a lot of time going through these structures to see how people lived, and be reminded of our own backgrounds, at least in my case, of the late 30s. We returned to the ship after an excellent and reasonable ($115.00 per couple) five hour excursion, with no other tourists anywhere.FoodThis subject is of great interest to all contemplating a cruise, but is rather subjective in outlook. There is not actually a vast difference in the approach to food service taken by the major cruise lines; nor can there be, given the environment in which it must take place. There is one area in which cruise lines are beginning to try to separate themselves from competitive lines, and that is in the widening use of specialty restaurants. This is most apparent in the newer ships which have featured these alternative dining spaces in their designs.HAL is a little behind the times here, with Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam; their latest, having only two. These are the Pinnacle Room, basically an upscale, dinner only, dining room with a $25.00 per person surcharge, and Tamarind, an Oriental food venue with free, but reservation only, lunch and a dinner with a $15.00 surcharge. We received a complimentary dinner at the Pinnacle Room for early booking of the cruise, and enjoyed it, but only had a disappointingly bland lunch at Tamarind. Others reported well about their dinner there, but it was not well designed for Edith's vegetarian requirements.The main dining room, the Rembrandt, had fixed seating for two times, 5:30 and 8:00 on its upper (Deck 3) level, while it offered open seating from 6:00 to 9:30 on its Deck 2 level. We chose our normal early fixed seating, believing it to be at 6:00 as on all other ships with this system (now becoming more rare since "open" dining is gaining popularity); and were discomfited with the 5:30 time. We like fixed seating, especially if there are six or eight regular attendees, but had we known, we would have elected open dining, and shown up at 6:00 to 6:30.We were also disappointed in that there was only one other couple at our table for six. We enjoyed their company, but there were several nights when only one couple was at the table.We are not wildly enthusiastic about HAL's food. This is especially true of their vegetarian offerings, which were limited to one per meal, and inspired in neither selection or preparation. The full menus were pretty standard in both selectionand preparation. On a scale of 1-100 I would rate HAL at 82, Princess 83, Celebrity 88, Oceania 92 and Crystal 97. We have had only one Royal Caribbean and one Norwegian, and don't really have a good basis to rate them, but would probably say about 80 for both. The food service was good, although our waiter seemed a bit overloaded with three tables when all were full. The buffet also had some problems. The layout was confusing and the signs not always informative. Ostensibly for health purposes, food was dispensed by buffet servers or stewards, including coffee; which made that item slow. However after two days the buffet service by ship's personnel was somewhat hit and miss, so the health goal was not well attained. Seating was overcrowded and difficult at times since the weather did not allow outside seating aft of the main Lido dining area. The breakfast selection was reasonable, although the potato offerings were inconsistent, and the ship ran out of apple juice on the third day. The coffee in the Lido was pretty bad, but the one time we had breakfast in the dining room it was pretty good. Once I figured out where the more exotic, Asian lunch items were located, I enjoyed these. The food in the buffet was served directly on large plates. The Food Service Manager told us that HAL had stopped using trays in the buffet and that this has resulted in substantially less waste. It worked out pretty well, although if you wanted to keep your utensils, you had to make sure your dining companion was on guard against the rapid removal of apparently used dishes and cutlery by the buffet staff. I should note that each night a portion of the buffet was set aside for Canelo, an Italian food setup with waiters, linen napery etc. at no extra charge.On Board Activities and EntertainmentHAL does not rate highly in this area. We had read that they realized the weakness of their activities on short cruises (and we experienced that on both Zaandam and Veendam on one week Caribbean cruises) and were going to remedy this on their longer cruises. We did not see much of this except for the lecturer for the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland. This was Jon Sigurdson from Iceland. He did several lectures in the main theater, which were always well attended and enjoyed. His amusing and relaxed, but very informative talks added to our enjoyment of the Viking countries we visited.Aside from this there was an astronomy lecturer that we did not attend, and a "techspert"; a young lady named Kristin who ran a series of computer and camera classes, often twice a day or even more, in the "Kings Room" a small room on Deck 2 that was equipped with about 20 laptops. This was a nice concept, but there was obviously a limit to the number of people who could avail themselves of this, and the classes moved quite rapidly, so there was the danger of being left behind. Many of them were repeated during the cruise however. On most sea days there was a presentation or "show: in the Culinary Arts center, which has a small theater setup with a stove top on stage. Most of these had a comedy approach, and the one in which our very friendly Canadian Captain attempted to cook was amusing. Most of the balance of the offerings were typical cruise games, contests and sales pitches for stores and the spa.The evening entertainment in the theater had some variety and two pretty good singers, one male, one female as well as two typical "Singers and Dancers" shows. There was a flutist, a pianist who had us worried if the instrument would survive her attack, a couple of comedians and a dance/quick change artist couple. All in all, we considered the evening entertainment to be of average quality; not up to Celebrity or Crystal, but better than our last Princess cruises, and most others.A daily ship's version of the New York Times was available in many national editions. In addition, one could go on line, without charge, in the internet cafe and bring up the e-mail version of the Times. Internet communication otherwise was not free, of course. I paid $55.00 + tax for 90 minutes, and it was slow. The in-room TV was sporadic in its pickup of satellite programs, as is normal when at sea. What was annoying was that the program listing for the in-house shows, including several movie channels was totally inadequate and uninformative. Nor did it enable you to see your on board account - pretty poor service for this day and age. The Crew and the ShipHAL runs a very high quality, ship-shape operation. The crew is constantly cleaning, and the results are apparent. The crew is also uniformly pleasant and attentive. Our cabin attendants were on the spot all the time, and always had a smile. The wait staff and buffet staff were equally nice. The Captain gave detailed, very understandable reports of progress, which was well appreciated because of two hurricanes, Irene and Katya, which posed possible threats. The officers made sure you knew that their families were on board, the Captain's three children obviously enjoying Dad's failures as a cook. As on all HAL ships, the stateroom attendants and wait staff in the dining venues were Indonesian, except for the wine and liquor servers who are non-muslim Filipinos. There was some upset over the store manager who would announce raffles and then cancel them with little notice, but he was not a HAL employee. There were a few days of high seas, but no reported motion sickness, merely some swaying as one walked about. The outer decks were closed a few times as the wind approached 70 knots, but the ship remained very steady. Often people on Cruise Critic wonder about the North Atlantic crossings. This is the third westbound crossing we have made, all in fall months, and all without disturbingly high seas. We have also done two eastbound cruises, from Rio to Barcelona and from Baltimore to Rome, both in the spring and equally smooth. The highest seas we have ever had have been going north up the Baja coast and west to Hawaii from California.DebarkationThis was the slowest we have ever experienced, and it was due entirely to the customs/immigration authorities, no doubt as frustrating for HAL as it was for us, since there were still passengers on board when we left at about 10:15. The new arrivals were to start boarding around 11:00. (We read one review which said that the early debarkees exited very promptly, but progress certainly slowed down later.) However, there were three ships arriving at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal, Carnival Glory, which had joined us in Halifax and Norwegian Jewel, which might have accounted for the delay. There was a very long line for taxis, but, as a born New Yorker, I believed I could walk one block to 11th Avenue and catch one there, which we did, and were on our way to pick up our rental car and drive to Long Island to visit my sister. Overall EvaluationThis was a cruise with highs and, if not exactly lows, some weak spots. The high points were the ports of call, the overall itinerary, our delightful stateroom; the general high quality of Eurodam as a ship, and its very pleasant staff. The food would be rated as medium to quite good; and the on board entertainment and activities as fair to medium. It is probably not a cruise one would do twice (although our friend Bobi had done just that) but certainly well worth doing once. We should note that of the 2100 passengers, about 450 had done a back to back with the cruise through the Baltic preceding our trip. Since we chose this cruise largely for its itinerary, and not for on board shows and activities, we were certainly not disappointed, and considered this an excellent adventure.Bon Voyage! Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
I booked the 14 day trip with a Travel agent , in another state. Originally booked D7, when price dropped I was upgraded to B2. I also booked the Transport/Hotel/transport package with Cunard. I booked my flight (through my agent) with Jet ... Read More
I booked the 14 day trip with a Travel agent , in another state. Originally booked D7, when price dropped I was upgraded to B2. I also booked the Transport/Hotel/transport package with Cunard. I booked my flight (through my agent) with Jet Blue from Fort Myers to New York, since Jet Blue is non stop but Cunard uses Delta, which takes twice as long and requires change of plane, terminal in Atlanta. On arrival in New York I was met by two Cunard reps who helped me with my cases and took me to the transport, which proved to be a limo just for myself.Very good arrival indeed. At Hotel (Hilton) thereceptionist informed me that the room allocated would not be ready until 3.30 but if I would accept a handicap room I could go straight up. I accepted the room of course, the only difference being a walk in shower in place of a tub. Stay was very pleasant. Next day again two Cunard reps, there on time and very helpful . I think Cunard has switched the agency they use, as in the past the rep at the hotel (same person each time) has been at least one and half hours late getting there, walking in with coffee in one hand and her breakfast in the other,and often missing when the transport arrived. This time was so very different, and very good Embarkation went as usual, arived at my cabin, checked my dinner seating card,freshened up and went to Kings Court , obtained a deli sandwich, a desert and took these to my cabin . No sign of my steward. Went to muster, back to cabin to change for dinner. Still no sign of steward, and no sign either of my luggage, although supposedly I had Priority handling on my tag.( It arrived after I had left for dinner) Went into bathroom to shower, no soap or toiletries. Fortunately I do carry these in my carryon. When ready since there was still no sign of my steward I left a note asking for missing items. Went to Chart room, asked for glass of Pinot Grigio , told this was not available. This has happened before, but this time instead of buying the more expensive drink they offered I said that if they had no Pinot Grigio then I would simply have a glass of water. Waiter went to bar, conference with bar tender, and returned with my requested glass of Pinot Grigio. Strange to relate, exactly the same thing occured a week later on the night we left Southampton! The ship does need the overhaul she is to have in November, the number of "soft spots" in the floors have multipied considerable. Seats in Illuminations are broken. Dining:- Food is subjective, so I will not comment except to say that the alternatives are not listed on the menu, and the servers did not mention them either. Since I ordered an alternative on several nights I was able to inform my dining companions they could do so also. This should be addressed by whomsoever is in charge of menu. Shops:- Not really my scene, however I did have need of a cosmetic, only to find that the shop was closed for 2 days when we left Southampton , excuse was they were arranging for a big sale on perfume! Shows:- These are the same ones as they have been for past 5-6 years, Cunard really needs to bring in some new programs. This is true also of several of the individual acts, same people, same act. Parties:- As noted on the main page of CC, no invites for parties on the Soton/NY cruise, no bottle of wine in the cabin either on that section. Believe this policy has now been reversed. Steward:- This was the invisible man. I never saw him, there was no cart outside my door when I left for breakfast at 8.30 each day, and every day he would "forget" something when cleaning my cabin. After first day he never put the coverlet and throw pillows back on the bed, he would make it but the cover etc remained rolled up in corner., some nights no clean towels to replace the used ones he had taken away, no wash cloths on another night, It was always something he failed to attend to. I played a game with myself every night trying to guess on my way back to my cabin what it would be that night. A notice re change of venue for CC meet reached me 2 days after the meet took place. He was very odd indeed. One day the daily event sheet had an item that some of the staff had not completed their training and passengers were asked to be tolerant of their shortcomings. Personally I think that Cunard need to be more concerned re the lack of service to passengers because of untrained staff rather than asking us to be tolerant. We pay for "White Star service" we should receive this. I am a loyal Cunard passenger, because I like to do Transatlantic and I like the formal atmosphere. I will be on the QV in Feb for 17 days LA to New York. I hope Cunard takes care to keep up the standard not let things slip. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Embarkation. We boarded at The Ocean Terminal for the first time and found it to be excellent. The process of handing over the car the luggage and proceeding through check in and onto the ship was pretty well seamless. Arrived at terminal ... Read More
Embarkation. We boarded at The Ocean Terminal for the first time and found it to be excellent. The process of handing over the car the luggage and proceeding through check in and onto the ship was pretty well seamless. Arrived at terminal at about 11.15am and were on board by just after 12.30pm. I would have rated the process 5 but for the fact that there were about 400 Portunis Gold Club members, who, quite rightly had priority but given the numbers it took quite a while to process them. Service. We found to be excellent throughout the cruise and we were very well looked after by all the staff but particularly by our waiters Sebastian and Ajay on table 116 in the Meridian Lower Tier and by Loretta the chief bar keeper in the wonderful Rising Sun Pub. As mentioned in the cabin section our steward was first class. Food. On the whole was very good, as ever on P&O well presented and served. One or two issues with the Belvedere self service restaurant, probably the worst self serve out of Arcadia, Ventura and Oriana. In saying that my comments relate to breakfast and lunch, dining in the evening was good. The curry nights particularly were of a high standard. The two speciality restaurants are fabulous and well worth the cover charge, I am just sorry Gary Rhodes franchise is coming to an end. However, I am sure Marco Pierre White will do a fine job. Really we would love to see freedom dining across the fleet, I don't think you can get away from the fact that first sitting is too early and second is too late. Sitting at the same table with the same people at the same time is really quite low on our cruise wish list.Ports and excursions. The itinerary was superb and all the ports had something good to offer. New York was an undoubted highlight but they were all good. The excursions were varied interesting and reasonably priced. Particularly good was the JFK museum and library in Boston, the trip to Kennebunkport from Portland Maine,and, the Titanic experience in Halifax Nova Scotia. Entertainment. Absolutely the best on any cruise we have been on. The Cruise Director Tracy Clegg and her team (and a team is just what they were) gave their all. I have never known an entertainments team work so hard and so well. From Arcadia's version of Strictly Come Dancing to Quizzes and the ships own version of loose women called 'Loose lips' it was all fantastic. Our wonderful dance instructors Alan and Ginny Newman were lovely people, so kind and patient and they made learning to dance such fun. On the formal side Sam Kane, Brian Conley and the wonderful voice of Eve Sherratt were exactly what they are stars. I did hear a not of complaining the morning after one show, a comedian, and, I have seen something in a review on this site. However, cannot comment as were attended the dancing that evening. We both found the lecture programme varied and interesting, in fact some topics I would have not expected to be interesting turned out to be very good. Summary. Absolutely fantastic we loved it and will certainly never forget the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
This spring transatlantic was on my favorite ship, Jewel of the Seas. I travel RCI as their prices are reasonable, ships are beautiful, and they have an excellent repeaters program with significant benefits at upper levels. We began with ... Read More
This spring transatlantic was on my favorite ship, Jewel of the Seas. I travel RCI as their prices are reasonable, ships are beautiful, and they have an excellent repeaters program with significant benefits at upper levels. We began with embarkation in Ft Lauderdale at RCI's new, and very large terminal built for their Oasis class ships. As Jewel carries 2000, not 6000, the boarding process was very fast and easy. Aboard we were allowed to go to staterooms immediately as the ship had come in from the shipyard that morning as thus rooms were made up far in advance. As usual luggage delivery was slow and special upper category repeaters bag tags made no difference at all. Restaurant reservations were all in order etc., and so after lunch in Windjammer it was clear sailing to Boat Drill and departure at 5 pm. for 6 days at sea, then into the Azores. As always crew morale seemed excellent, ship was sparkling, on board lecturers were good, and all was fine under excellent skies. The problem with RCI is not crew morale, facilities etc. it is the FOOD. To keep prices low I presume, RCI seems to buy very poor quality food, especially meats, and although well prepared, their poor quality shows thru. Additionally there are 5 entrees in the evening - but 3 of them are vegetarian. Now we should take care of vegetarians, however they certainly don't make up 60 % (3 out of 5). But vegetarian, non meat entrees are most probably "cheaper" than using more expensive meats. And sometimes the 2 "meat entrees" are pathetic. One evening one was meat loaf, the other some sort of fish cake. Come On!! Now RCI will say that they also have an alternative menu available which is true - but its the same every night - salmon, grilled chicken, "top" steak. This gets old on a 12 night trip; however I hurry to say that no matter what, it is better than this bachelor makes at home for himself. I love ships of the Radiance class of which Jewel was the last, built in 2006. They are open to the sea, full of glass vistas etc. and no matter where you are you can, within a few feet,you can always look out at the ocean. RCI's other, larger classes e.g. Freedom, Oasis, all look into themselves, especially Freedom class where everything looks into their interior Mall, which they call a Promenade. Had lovely port calls in Porta Delgada, Azores, Portugal;then two more sea days and into Brest and Cherbourg France and trip ended in Harwich England, with a very easy departure and a seamless trip to London's airports for those who had transfers offered by RCI.Missed having Hotel Director Robert Taggert aboard. He is everyone's friend, passenger and crew alike and is much responsible for the wonderful attitude you find aboard Jewel Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Fourth Tran cruise - previous 3 with Celebrity . Flew Glasgow- Newark - Fort Lauderdale and stayed at Sheraton airport Hotel. all fineTook hotel shuttle [$10] to port at 11am as RCI bus going to many hotels. Security that previously was ... Read More
Fourth Tran cruise - previous 3 with Celebrity . Flew Glasgow- Newark - Fort Lauderdale and stayed at Sheraton airport Hotel. all fineTook hotel shuttle [$10] to port at 11am as RCI bus going to many hotels. Security that previously was grim were very friendly, smiling and seemed happy at work. Credit to Agency....big change.On ship within 20mins and cabins all ready as ship had been in drydock. Dropped off hand luggage and then to Windjammer for food... one must. Luggage arrived about 3pm and then drill at 4.30 and sail away at 5. If not aware webcam at Everglades and my daughter in Scotland identified us from rear of ship on balcony.Food: Quality and amount has reduced over the years but waiters bring you anything extra you ask for. Went to Chops,,,fantastic as usual.Crown Anchor: 1082 members onboard. did not go to welcome back etc due to numbers. We are Diamond Level so could go to Vortex from 5.30pm - 8pm for free wines and 20% off spirits.Enrichment:CSI phenomenon; Very good, about TV programmes and DNA.Ports: None of them on list below. Really says it all.Ponta Delgada, Azores. I think we had to stop after 7 days at sea. Pleasant enough.Brest: Working docks.Why did we stop here?Cherbourg: Nice French port, nice shops and cafes etc. Escursions available. Overall a pleasant cruise but the cutbacks are becoming obvious. Things that used to be standard are now missing or have to be paid for.Did not go to shows as clashed with Diamond Lounge with free wine.. no choice. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
We are experienced cruisers. We boarded our ship in FLL after a short non-stop flight. We got a taxi to the ship (very easy and cheap to do in FLL). At the conclusion of the cruise, we stayed over night at the Sheraton Skyline in London. ... Read More
We are experienced cruisers. We boarded our ship in FLL after a short non-stop flight. We got a taxi to the ship (very easy and cheap to do in FLL). At the conclusion of the cruise, we stayed over night at the Sheraton Skyline in London. It was very convenient to the airport and priced better than most London hotels. We used the "Hotel Hoppa" to the airport. It costs a fraction of what taxis charge. Watch out for the "unofficial" taxis -- they will overcharge you greatly -- sometimes 25 GBP one way. The Hoppa cost 4 GBP.       This review is based on experiences on the Grand Princess' first cruise following her 3 week-long dry dock. This cruise left Fort Lauderdale on May 5, 2011 for a 16 day transatlantic and British Isles cruise. I imagine the reviews will start pouring in soon and this will probably be one of the lowest rated cruises in Princess Cruise history. It seems the dry dock planners greatly overestimated the amount of work that could be done in the number of days available. Based on my own informal survey (from taking to other passengers for 16 days of cruising) there will be many, many negative comments - some very negative.       Indeed, the ship was not ready for passengers, based on what we've come to expect from Princess. Our past experiences have been very nice on Princess and I have faith that this will not happen again. I expect Princess will learn something from this post dry dock cruise. This experience will not prevent me from planning future cruises on Princess, although some of the other passengers had so negative experiences that they did say they would no longer cruise on Princess. I will continue to expect a wonderful Princess experience in the future until proven wrong. I think anyone can make a mistake and this was a mistake in over-planning. My husband and I did not experience any major problems although there were lots of lots of small problems and negative situations we do not expect with Princess.       As usual, the Princess crew - the cabin stewards, the waiters and assistant waiters, the entire dining room staff, including "Victor" in the Michelangelo Dining Room - were wonderful. Herein lies the strength of Princess cruises.       To keep it simple, I'll break the cruise down by the bad and the good.       The bad news first: The ship was in bad condition when we boarded. Many areas were half done and dirty. Some cabins were in bad shape and some balconies unusable. The promenade deck was dirty and full on supplies and materials. The pools were dirty and unusable.   The old Skywalkers had been removed, but the new One Five - it's replacement - was nowhere near complete.   There appeared to be a lot of new staff onboard. The service and food in the dining room started off poor but started to improve after about 4 days.   We started out with a delayed check-in and ship stayed in port until 8:16 am Friday (5/6/2011) morning.   The personnel working the Purser's Desk needed some public relations training. They were not very helpful to the point of being rude, particularly to older passengers (who probably needed their help the most - shame on them L). The Internet connection on the newly "upgraded" communication system was hit or miss. When it worked, it was great - the best I've ever had, but it was down quite a lot. Also, the tech person was very much not user friendly - actually he was rude and condescending.   It was a sad cruise for ballroom dancers. We usually can find at least one venue for dancing and frequently have a Big Band night, Jazz night, or Tea Dances, but not this time. The only danceable band was in the Wheelhouse Bar - small dance floor and they played a lot of blues, which is hard for some ballroom dancers to dance to. The orchestra was kept busy in the theater and only played on 2 occasions on a 16 day cruise.           Now the good news: Little by little, the ship started to take shape. The promenade and pools were cleaned and all the supplies and materials blocking the promenade disappeared. Princess always has amazing, hard-working crew who make things happen.   After a few days, the food and service in the dining room improved greatly. Once we were out to sea, we made up all the lost time (including time for an emergency medical stop in Bermuda) and arrived at all ports on time.   The production shows in the Princess Theater were better than most I've seen and several of them were "excellent". The other entertainers (comedians, musicians, magicians, etc.) were a little better than average and not a "stinker" in the bunch.   The best part of the cruise was the redo of the 5th floor atrium into a Piazza (like to find on other "grand" class ships). They did a beautiful job here with the inclusion of the always fabulous, International Cafe, the Vines Wine Bar (but no sushi or tappas), and another extra, Alfredo's Pizzeria - a very nice sit-down pizza.       As far as our room; we stayed in room 407 on the Emerald Deck and it was a great room for the price. It was "partially obstructed" but still has a nice view and it was one of those rooms with the bed on the wall instead of under the window. I will post pictures of the room and view. You can't beat it for the price.       The cruise across the Atlantic was wonderful - very smooth. The ports were very interesting - a good choice of ports. It would have been better to dock on the eastern side of Scotland to see Edinburgh instead of the western. Also, we need more time if you dock in Greenock or La Harve (if you're going to Paris or Normandy). Ponta Delgada (Azores) was a disappointment. Cobh (Cork) was a wonderful little town and La Harve was a nice city to visit. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
We cruised for the first time on the Crown Princess in early May and had a great time, with only a few bumps. I'll try to cover all the basics and for me it is mostly about the ports, the trivia, and the great people we meet!On the ... Read More
We cruised for the first time on the Crown Princess in early May and had a great time, with only a few bumps. I'll try to cover all the basics and for me it is mostly about the ports, the trivia, and the great people we meet!On the flight from Los Angeles I met my birthday twin who was also going to be on the Crown Princess celebrating her birthday like me and we shared a cab to the port and ended up hanging with them every night at Skywalkers before dinner. We really enjoyed meeting and comparing activities at the same place and same time every night, we used the Platinum/Elite lounge for this, they still provide cheese and veggies and olives among other nibbles. I booked the cruise early this year and was thrilled to get a specific room—C742—which is the most aft portside Caribe balcony because I read that it was larger than the rest of the portside rooms on this deck and that was true. The balcony has extra room in it making it huge, comparable to the rear facing rooms I have stayed in before. Embarkation was a breeze and we were in our room by noon. Our room smelled terrible, the poor steward who had also just come aboard was busy scrubbing the walls of the room as we approached it, the floor was damp from cleaning and I could see the steward was beside himself trying to clean the room from a really bad smoke smell. I could tell from the beginning that he was a fantastic steward, but the room was so bad that I knew I had to leave the ship or get my room changed pronto. We left the room to grab a bite in the MDR, which was opened and not too crowded. I hoped the room would air out in the meantime. I met up with my Birthday twin Teri and her husband Brad and we enjoyed a nice lunch. Back at the room, my poor steward was still scrubbing and he advised me to try and change rooms. I was so bummed out but I decided to fix it and not dwell, I had trivia to win and dinners to eat. I called the front desk every 10 minutes to bug them and finally I relocated to R337, yes I was annoying but within an hour I was in a comparable room with a much smaller balcony but did not smell like smoke. The new room (R337) was located mid ship. It was a noisy room, I could hear walking all day long and every morning at 6am somebody was dragging chairs and tables around and this became my wake-up call! I had never stayed on the 14th floor so this was a new experience and I did enjoy it. Good thing I am not too fussy about noises and movement.On the first sea day we got news of a sick passenger and the ship diverted to Bermuda, thankfully we could do that and the passenger was safely transported off the ship via tender. The sea days were so much fun, we had 10 total. There was an abundance of lectures, games, activities, and lots of trivia all day long. We lucked into a "dream team" of trivia brilliance (the Aristocrats) and won our fair share of games. Al, the head Aristocrat, was one of the most interesting people I met in a long time, a world traveler for years he had a vast amount of information and trivia and wow did I learn from him! I did not realize how many people cheat in trivia. There was the team that always placed themselves far from others so nobody could see them look through books and lists of answers, when they disputed an answer (each time they got something wrong) they would march up to the cruise staffer and point out the correct answer. The book they cited from was a reference book that had been stolen from the Princess library, geesh! The things people will do for a luggage tag, well actually I heard from a staffer that they give them as tips to the staff!The food was good, I am not a foodie and ate a lot of Vegetarian although I am not one. It seemed to me that there was a lot more butter and cream in dishes, everything from meat to veggies got a pad of butter on it in the Crown Grill and it was good but very rich. We ate breakfast in the International Cafe, and Lunch and Dinner in the MDR. My favorite discovery was that I could have Panini Sandwiches made at the International cafe! My clothing managed to shrink a lot from so much exposure to salt water.We enjoyed the port days and had never been to the Azores, or Lisbon. The ship tours were in US Dollars and seemed more reasonable than many private tours that were quoted in Euros. As always the money exchange on the ship offered terrible rates in addition to high fees so we waited to get off the ship and make money exchanges. We found that many vendors (especially street vendors) would take dollars and I met a couple that refused to carry anything but US money and they got plenty of stuff in each port.We enjoyed the Azorean Island of Sao Miguel and took a private tour which visited the highlights of the island including Ponta Delgata, Sete cidades, Lagoa do Fogo (fire lake), and Caldeiras velha which is a warm water waterfall inside a reserve park area, with a small hotspring and beautiful foliage along the way. After our tour we visited a farm for an authentic Portuguese lunch. Our hosts served us homemade cheeses, breads, sausages, fish and Chicken, and an amazing desert of Passion fruit flan. Its was an amazing intimate experience that was very special, sitting at a long farm table with 40-50 other folks from other ships.The sail into Lisbon was beautiful, so was the sail away. The dock where we were was very close to everything so we decided to use the tram system to get us around, as well as our trusty feet! We walked a lot, especially after taking the famous "tram 28" which did not go very far, and at the top of the hill we were asked to get off and then stand in line and board the tram across the square! Huh? We encountered some hostility on the tram and were called "ugly Americans" because we refused to stand while the tram was moving, Safetyman Ken would not allow it! I always listen to Safetyman Ken! As we walked down through the ancient streets, we found a Pisswa and everyone posed in it! I had only seen pisswa's in Paris, I did not realize they were all over Europe. Our friends Char and Trevor from Toronto cracked us up as we giggled our way down the hills and through the narrow streets of the Alfama. I found a beautiful green glass/crystal doorknob in an antique store for 5 Euros, my only purchase. Looks like I'll be collecting doorknobs from now on, they make perfect trinkets, they are authentic and inexpensive.Rotterdam was also an interesting sail in port, it took us several hours to reach the cruise port and we passed some beautiful windmills along the way. We had such a funny day in this port, everything I planned went wrong and I had to abandon my agenda in favor of what unfolded, I gladly gave it up! We all decided to take the train into Amsterdam, I encouraged everyone to take the metro rather than the free shuttle (which I imagined would drop us off at some Dutch version of Diamonds International) and so we did that. However the metro broke down and we were forced to take a tram instead, and all of this was very time consuming so we missed the early train to Amsterdam. Take the free shuttle if you go! We ended up on a highspeed train to Amsterdam, it took 40 minutes and dropped us off at Amsterdam Central where it was an easy walk to the Red Light district, and all the things that make Amsterdam so unique. The red light district was eye opening as usual, we found those narrow alleys where you walk through single file and shop for sex! I spend a good portion of time watching my feet, wish I was more comfortable with this type of thing but I was not born that way. From the train station walk down Dam Street and the district is to the left, hugging several canals. There is a church there, the Oude Kerk, and if you follow the streets that border it you are in the main part of the red light district. Don't be surprised if you see school children in this area either. One of the people in our group bought a marijuana brownie and ate half of it as we walked through the red light district, by the time we got onto the hoho boat, she could barely hold up her head! She could not walk off the boat and 5 of us had to carry her, she rested on the stairs of central station as we fed her a burger and a milkshake. We were worried that we couldn't get her back to the ship but thankfully she recovered quickly. We visited Leiden on the way back to the ship and got to see a more pleasing part of Holland. What a day!Next port was Zeebrugge, Belgium. This was a terrible port in that there was no way to get out of it without paying for a private taxi or using the "shuttle" which cost $6 Euros each way and they made us buy RT claiming they would not sell us tickets on the return bus! I had arranged for a private taxi through Koen Keereman of Brugse Taxi Service and they never showed up. Thankfully there were other taxis available for hire, even if they cost more money. Be careful if you use this company.Other than the impossible task of getting out of the port, we really enjoyed Brugge. We actually made it there by 8:20 am and had the town to ourselves for the next hour, it's such a cute town to walk. We took a boat ride around and enjoyed the great weather. Slowly the town filled up with people, by noon it was packed. We ate French Fries and everybody agreed that the catsup tasted funny, it was not as sweet. The last four days of the cruise were hectic with different ports and no sea days to pack and relax. I tried to pack each night a little, but I hated being reminded that the cruise was coming to an end. At least I was going home with clean clothing; it is so nice to enjoy the elite benefits of being a loyal cruiser with Princess!Le Havre was an interesting port, so French and so lovely. We took a ship tour to Giverny (a miserable zoo of people slamming into me and stepping into my shots) with lunch included at a riverside French restaurant that reminded me cafeteria food, it was so gross. Our last stop was Rouen I had forgotten how much I love France, this always happens to me, and it took me by surprise when we visited Rouen's main Cathedral. I started swooning and I was filled with emotion, I could not stop crying! As we exited the Cathedral we saw an almost nude clown posing for an artist to paint, this greatly embarrassed our Princess tour guide but I told her we had just visited Amsterdam! Next there was a Bachelor party going on in town, it was hysterically funny to watch; the future groom was dressed in drag and his friends, dressed like the Mario Brothers of Nintendo fame, were taking him around to all the stores and cafes and embarrassing him, all the while Mario Brothers Music was blasting. It was a hot mess of a spectacle, and I was so glad I got to see it. Loved Rouen, France but the rest of the tour was not so good!We disembarked in Southampton at 7am, it was easy and uneventful even though we were really tired. We took a half day tour & airport transfer to Stonehenge, with a Windsor Castle drive by, and we got to Heathrow by 1PM. We really enjoyed Stonehenge, I found a 100% recycled wool blanket there for 12 pounds (roughly $18 US dollars) and a great pop up book. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
NCL's Epic (Deeper Review) - TransAtlantic CrossingGary Hayman (LeVoyageur)ghayman3 at comcast dot netYou may have read my previous review written after my first December 2010 voyage on NCL's newer cruise ship, The NLC Epic. [ ... Read More
NCL's Epic (Deeper Review) - TransAtlantic CrossingGary Hayman (LeVoyageur)ghayman3 at comcast dot netYou may have read my previous review written after my first December 2010 voyage on NCL's newer cruise ship, The NLC Epic. [ http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=76198 ] In that review I ONLY discussed the new single's Studio cabins* and did not discuss the rest of the ship. *Please note that NCL is now advertising the Studio cabins as an accommodation for two people -- rather than the just the solo traveler that they formerly touted. That's 100 sq ft. -- about the size of a camping tent -- for two people (very close friends.)As I begin this review on my SECOND voyage on the Epic, this time a trans-Atlantic 11 day cruise from Miami to Barcelona, Spain, I can briefly report that some of the criticisms that I made in my first review apparently did not fall on deaf ears as I noticed corrections were made in line with my suggestions, be it a result of my published article or due to other sources complaining. It doesn't matter. Only that the improving corrections were made is important.Here, as a result of my second voyage on the Epic, I will continue with some additional comments that I have observed myself or even culled from the many conversations with fellow passengers during the trip.First off, the Epic is a great ship, but still needs some changes to make it even better. It may not be the ship of choice for everyone, especially me, so future travelers will have to make that determination for themselves.I will concentrate mainly on areas of 'concern' and some other areas of interest. This will, by no means be a complete review so you are invited to other writings on CruiseCritic.com for additional information so that you can better judge for yourself and your particular requirements. The ship is so big and there is so much going on that one review from one person cannot tell it all.INSIDE CABINThis time, instead of a Studio cabin, I chose an inside cabin for the reason that even having to pay DOUBLE for the inside cabin, as I was a solo traveler, the 128 sq. ft. inside cabin was still ~$400 CHEAPER than booking a 100 sq. ft. Studio cabin. More room - less money. Yes, finally room to move around and even to easily store your belongings which the Studio cabin didn't easily offer. There was actually plenty of room including drawer, shelf and clothes hanging in this type of cabin, although less than other similar inside cabin rooms on other cruise lines. My cabin had two twin beds which I had moved together to form a bigger bed. There was no sitting area but there was a movable padded stool. The room was a rectangle. On the left side of my entry was toilet with a sliding frosted characters door, then a two door closet which contained PLENTY of room for hanging clothes (lots of wooden hangers) plus plenty of shelf space. On one of the closet doors were 3 wire baskets which were very valuable for additional storage. One shelf contained a combination lock small safe. The projection then curved to the straight wall on the left side. At the right of the entry was a great shower with a curved sliding door. The shower water was thermally controlled and worked great. Beyond was a small washbasin and medicine cabinet, an elevated refrigerator (mini-bar), a handy slide out desk panel, drawers, and additional small shelves under the main shelf. To either side of the bed were small night stands with shelf space. Please note that the washbasin is very SMALL. Earlier, many reviewers, including myself, complained that the water, because of the force, would easily splash on the floor from the basin when turned on. Fortunately, in now seems that they lowered the water pressure and I had no trouble with the splashing that I had on my December Epic cruise. There were mirrors on the clothes locker door, the medicine cabinet and at the shelf-desk. The entrance way was floored with Pergo style material and there was carpeting in the sleeping area. There was lighting, but I felt it could have been a little brighter for my eyes. SUGGESTION: NCL this is an inside cabin. Brighten the lights, please.A sliding curtain could be used to block off the shower and toilet area from the sleeping, storage and dressing area. An elevated TV could be seen from the bed but not the rest of the room. There were limited channels. Movies were at extra cost. You could review your GROWING statement on the TV. and even watch ship events -- past and present.There were available wall outlets for American and European electrical equipment and a third one for shavers in the medicine cabinet.There was hardly any noise from the corridor and its passing people. General announcements (activities etc.), made in the corridor, over the PA system could not be heard clearly unless one opened the door.SUGGESTION: I've never seen this on a cruise ship - An on/off switch in the cabin to allow corridor announcements to also play in the cabin would be appreciated. [Probably easy to do as there is already a speaker in each room for emergency PA announcements. NCL take note.]Generally, the room was more than sufficient even though it was smaller than other ships. My complaint would be towards the excessively high prices of the Studio cabins. In a perfect life, they should be cheaper for the solo traveler with the very small room, than for a solo traveler occupying a bigger inside cabin and paying double (which also should not be as they don't consume twice the food or use twice the activities - some cruise lines don't charge a double supplemental fee for the single traveler, their supplemental is much less, you should check -- but, some do.) SUGGESTION: Hey NCL, if you want to attract more single travelers (since your advertisements say that you are an innovator in doing this) and fill those empty cabins lower your single supplement fees for inside cabins from double to something more reasonable -- other cruise lines do. Price your small 100 sq. ft. Studio cabins lower than the price of the larger inside cabin. VARIOUS CABINSI was fortunate to be able to see almost all of the available types of cabins on the ship. One of the Cruise Critic passengers had organized, with the help of many volunteers, a Cabin Crawl. I was even able to view my own cabin as it was one of the assigned stopping points. I thought that all of the cabins were quite nice and certainly very comfortable. True, the Studio cabins were small - you can read my comments on the Studio cabins by visiting the link at the beginning of this article. Outstanding, of course, where the special multi-roomed cabins of the Courtyard area [Delux Owners Suites] -- plus the special Spa Suites and Penthouse Suites. There was a special blocked off area of the ship of fancy cabins and suites for Texas millionaires or Chicago sausage barons. Elegance, Elegance, Elegance. People who stayed there must have felt like well treated celebrities in fancy Las Vegas suites that you see in the movies. It must of been like a 'your wish is my command magic experience.' You can view the luxury from many on-line photos (Google or Bing images) including the NCL site [ http://www2.ncl.com/cruise-ship/epic/staterooms/2/suite#tab_detail ].There was some grumbling about the curvature in some of the cabins, but I couldn't see that it would be a bother. But, I wasn't living in one of those. Although some cabins had normal balcony views of the ocean, others had blocked views (due to lifeboats) and less than full view space due to the ships architecture. SUGGESTION: When booking your balcony cabin be sure to inquire about a possible restricted view. Also, when booking your cabins, check its location carefully to see if it is situated near a noisy area such as where children's activities are held or over, under, or beside a noise making area such as a music and dancing area or a galley.STUDIO CABIN'S LIVING ROOMThis was the subject of my previous review. The Studio's Living Room is for the occupants of the 128 special solo cabins. There is a gathering for the cabin occupants each evening from 5:30-6:30pm. [Half-priced Drinks, Meet & Mix, Snacks, Activity Arrangements, etc.] Only those assigned to those cabins are 'SUPPOSEDLY' allowed to attend. That's the way it was on my first Epic cruise and that is what the Front Desk confirmed on this cruise.SUGGESTION: That the Epic people provide an invite to all other 'solos' on the cruise giving them FORMAL permission to attend these evening functions, making it easier for them to associate with other solo passengers. The invite can be just a card in the cabin so that a general ship announcement isn't made that might attract non-solo passengers. There was a rumor that this was allowed on this cruise, but as I had mentioned, the Front Desk said NO -- only for occupants of those special cabins! [But some people did sneak in.]NICKELS AND DIMESUnfortunately, one of the most common phrases that you overhear from fellow passengers at the dinner table or from neighbors at entertainment events, is the phrase "NCL nickels and dimes you to death." This may be due to all the extra charges levied on passenger at the special restaurants, using the spa facilities such as the steam room or the dry sauna, sushi (which is available and free on many other cruise lines), a charge for espresso with dinner, a charge for movies in room, etc. Now I am one who would prefer that the steam and dry sauna, the free sushi availability, and having an espresso at the dinner table - - all of which some other cruise lines provide - - SHOULD BE FREE, but other than that, I really didn't notice any other "nickel and diming" going on. I believe that it is a phrase that has just caught on and is repeated often by individuals who realize that there are a lot of hidden extras when taking the cruise. (NOTE: there were many free movies during the cruise on the large LCD movie screens in the Atrium and the aft outdoor H2O Spice area, for those who were interested.) SPECIALTY RESTAURANTSOn this, my second trip on the Epic. I only attended only one specialty restaurant - the Moderno Churrascaria, a Brazilian style restaurant, for an additional fee of $20. I was treated to an endless supply of a variety of skewered meats and side dishes that was way more than a person could handle. Needless to say, the dishes were scrumptious (I recommend the lamb chops, the filets, and the garlic beef.) The service was high-class and the waiter was very helpful with the selections. I must say that they have a salad bar of the likes you have probably never seen. It, by itself, should be an additional specialty restaurant. It is almost impossible to have a main meal AND the salad bar in one sitting.There are other Epic specialty restaurants of which you can read about on NCL's website that may be of interest to you. But please note that there are extra charges from $10 to $25 per person. [ Descriptions and Photos: http://www2.ncl.com/cruise-ship/epic/onboard/eat#tab_detail ]THE MAIN DINING ROOMSThe two main "FREE" dining rooms are the Manhattan and the Taste. Both served, dinner. The Taste also serves breakfast and lunch. I found the food range from very good to excellent - although there were others on board who voiced opposite opinions. There was one exception though, the Philly cheese steak sandwich at the Taste. If there was anyone on board from Philadelphia they would be chasing the chef with a baseball bat.SUGGESTION: Have the chef visit Philadelphia for some training.Actually there was one major complaint that ALMOST EVERYONE had and it was the fact that the right-hand side of the menu contains a big listing of standard dinner items that didn't change from evening to evening, while the left side of the menu listed ONLY A FEW ITEMS that were new for the evening. If you didn't like a couple of new items you had to choose from the same menu again and again. On an 11 day trip, as this was, the food choices could get old fast. Some opined that this was a technique to encourage you to attend one of the pay specialty restaurants for your meal, but you wouldn't think that NCL would do that purpose would you?SUGGESTION: NCL - more new items and less standard items to give your menu a feel of being NEW each evening. No free espresso with your dinner? What's up with that? (The regular coffee was watery.)THE GARDENThis is a buffet style restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In my opinion, this restaurant is probably the best buffet for all three meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) that I have found on any of the ships on which I've traveled. (Applause Here) The selection is enormous. There are specialty foods from various countries as well as excellent vegetarian choices. It is pretty well spread out so you have to wonder about a bit to see what's available. But even then there are no long waiting lines for items as you might have experienced on other ships. It is here where you have an opportunity to see the ocean while you dine. (See later comments on ocean views.)Usually one doesn't think about going to the buffet for dinner when on cruises. But let me say that this buffet deserves a dinner visit at least once during your cruise. The dinner items were great. I was not only impressed with the dinner but breakfast and lunch, as mentioned, were also outstanding for me.EATING AS A SINGLEMy BIGGEST COMPLAINT, and one that might keep me from returning to NCL, is a result of Freestyle dining in the Main dining rooms. This is not apparent to couples or groups but is quite apparent to single diners. Freestyle dining often leaves the diner alone at a table in the two main dining rooms. I had the same experience on both my cruises on the Epic. It is like pulling teeth to have the hostesses seat you to with other people so you don't have to dine alone. Even when you announce that you would like to dine with others (share a table) they will first seek to sit you at a table for two and no one else would be assigned to that tape. You then will ask to be seated at a larger table with others and they might sit you at one and still no one shows up. One has to be quite emphatic about being seated with other people before they will take the proper action.SUGGESTION: if you are single and want to be seated with other people, tell the hostess so, in no uncertain terms, and inform her that you will wait by her desk as she inquires of approaching parties of their willingness to 'share a table'. And then, AND ONLY THEN, join the amiable group that doesn't mind dining with outsiders and enter the dining room AS A GROUP. By no means let the hostess seat you at a table by yourself, waiting for others - who will never show. By the way, groups that I did join, were fantastic dinner companions and the conversations were robust and very interesting. I had no regrets when I did it this way but there is resistance from the hostesses when you ask.I would also suggest that the dining room reserve a couple of tables for solo travelers who would like to dine with other solo travelers and perhaps usher those to those tables.EVENING DANCING AS A SINGLEI enjoy dancing on ship, in fact, I was a dance instructor on twelve of my previous 26 cruises -- but these were mainly with dance groups. This ship is not set up for earlier in the evening dancing for singles. There is an orchestra playing in the main dinning room, The Manhattan, and a great dance floor, but unless someone at your table is willing to dance it is very difficult to approach other tables inquiring about partners. There is a dance floor in the Atrium with an excellent group playing very danceable music, but the layout with the single overstuffed chairs jammed against each other with little or no aisle access space does not create the environment to obtain dance partners. Of course, couples and groups have no troubles in obtaining partners. For me, the Bliss Lounge starts to late and is too dark to see anyone. Other music, save deck fifteen have no dance floors space around the musical groups. I would register a small complaint about the DJs in the Bliss Lounge. They don't seem to have the experience in selecting music that people will dance to. With an empty floor they might play a certain style of music and, instead of recognizing the non-participation and changing the style or beat, play the same style of music again -- not attracting dancers. Then, when they finally switch to music that attracts dancers, they immediately clear the floor by returning to the music that no one will dance to. I have had experience with great DJ chosen music as for six years I ran large DJ dance parties every week at various night clubs in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. DJs should be bringing dancers to the floor, not chasing them away.SUGGESTION: Other cruise lines have dance floor space around all musical groups and are laid out in a manner so that all seats are approachable. NCL should take a lesson from them to assist non-grouped single passengers. Advise the assigned DJs to choose their music so as to encourage the dance floor to fill.BOWLINGThe ship has several bowling alleys for use by its patrons at five dollars a frame. Several are located on deck six, there are several more in the Bliss Lounge. I didn't participate, so I can't really comment. But I can say that the sailing was so smooth that I don't think the bowlers were effected at all by any motion of the chip. But for free, one could do 'Nintendo Wii' bowling on the giant TV screen in the Atrium. There you could have a 91 pin strike - and it didn't cost a cent. It would be nice if the regular bowling was also free.THE FITNESS CENTERThe gym facilities were superb. I was there at 6 AM each morning and others were quickly joining so by 7am the gym was quite active. It is said that this gym has the most treadmills of any ship sailing the seas. The ship was equipped with an abundance of treadmills, elliptical's, free weights, weight and exercise machines, a spinning room, a yoga room, and a converted squash court (where they have all sorts of large balls, straps on racks etc. and they do kinetic training.) I think this is where the Spartacus and the gladiators get in shape. It looks dangerous to me -- it is a place where only the strong servive.I took some Zumba classes in the yoga room which I thoroughly enjoyed. There was even a Zydeco dance class held in that room on one of the days. I do enjoy Zydeco dancing.However, the afforded jogging track was a let down. It was nothing more than the area where the passengers would stand if they were to enter the lifeboats during an emergency, and was only on one side of the ship on deck seven. The view of the water is blocked by the lifeboats so that while jogging or walking one couldn't view the sea except for glimpses between life boats.SUGGESTION: Many passengers were disappointed when they discovered that a first class jogging track was absent. This should be considered for future builds for the fleet.VIEW OF THE WATERThis is a BIG GRIPE by passengers housed in the inside cabins. As mentioned before, there's limited view of the water. The ship was built with having as many balcony cabins as possible so therefore there are no promenade decks, as on other ships, where you can walk or power walk and see the water. Also there is only limited water viewing through windows from the interior of the ship in the passenger's congregating areas on decks five, six and seven. With an inside cabin, one may just feel that they are spending a vacation in a floating hotel with minimum view of the outside when away from the cabin.SUGGESTION: Strolling on a deck looking out at the water, or a sun rise, sunset, or even the stars is what one expects on a cruise ship. Here it is lacking. I hope that future builds for the fleet makes this a more important consideration. ENTERTAINMENTThere is a large variety of entertainment on the ship. In the Epic theater, depending on the evening, there was the Blue Man Group, Legends Unplugged, a comedy magician, a ventriloquist, a hypnotist, and various other major presentations. Also offered, in another special theater, was Cirque Dreams - an amazing dinner circus event. In other rooms the Second City improv group, a smooth blues band, a duel piano play and sing along show, a variety music band, a ship' s orchestra, a pianist, guitar player, a classical string group, and Latin and island music (usually on the pool deck), plus various others. There was more entertainment and music on the open air aft deck of the ship and of course, the highly used Bliss Lounge at the fore of the ship, for many events and late night CD music. The passenger never was lacking for on board entertainment.ACTIVITIESOf all the 26 ships on which I've been passenger, the Epic had the most available activities of all. Fortunately the ship furnished a daily tear out and fold listing that you could put in your pocket and carry with you. There was no way that you can do everything, but everything was there for your choosing. The variety was enormous. The gym and spa were making presentations throughout the day. The program director and his assistant were making announcements over the PA system telling you what is coming up in the next couple of hours. Of course everyone wade or swim in the pool instead of engaging in these activities - cough - cough, [I forgot to tell you that it was kind of chilly while crossing the Atlantic and little use was made of the pool and lounge chairs on the pool deck.] I didn't partake of the three water slides because of the outdoor temperature but I have to recommend that if you sail on the Epic you must give them a try, you won't regret it -- they are FUN.PERSONNELAs on most cruise lines ships, the personnel on board our amiable and helpful. Here, when sometimes you walk into the Garden Cafe, the greeters are singing to you while they spray your hands with disinfectant. Yes, your hands get sprayed quite often -- put your hands out or your clothes might get sprayed. Most all of the other ship' s personnel say hello when you pass them. It is a friendly ship. Although I didn't experience it, some passengers were reporting that they had less than satisfactory experiences while asking questions at Guest Services. I experienced a helpful, friendly and cheerful atmosphere at the desk. [Of course they always confused me with George Clooney and wanted my autograph.]CASINO/SMOKEThe previous time that I was on the Epic there was smoking all throughout the casino and one had to make their way through clouds of dense fog. This time they had restricted smoking to only certain areas which certainly helped while walking through the casino, which is required on deck six to reach various facilities. I, and many others, complained about the smoke in previous critiques. Perhaps the cruise line does listen to its passengers - from time to time.DECORATIONSThe common areas of the ship are well decorated and pleasing. All is new and sparkling clean. While walking the common areas on decks five, six and seven you have an abundance of pleasant feasts for the eyes.BARSThey have bars and bars and bars. Even one in the room where the temperature is maintained below 17°F. When entering the Ice Bar one is given faux fur coats, a hat and gloves. This is not a place to enter without pants, socks or wearing sandals. Needless to say your drinks inside are a chilling experience.NO PAY LAUNDRY OR IRONING ROOMUnlike on other vessels, there is no pay laundromat or ironing room, so be forewarned. You can use the ships laundry service, at a price, or rinse things out in your TINY cabin sink and hanging them to dry on a line in your shower. You might want to save all your dirty cloths to wear at the Bliss Lounge late at night, as it is so dark in there no one can see your clothes anyway.SUGGESTION: NCL: Provide a passenger laundromat/ironing room.SINKOne of the big complaints on earlier Epic cruises was about the small sink and it's water splashing on the floor when the spigots are turned on. I wrote about this in my previous review. Since then, it appears as if the ship paid attention and turned down the water pressure to the sinks, practically eliminating the water splashing. Kudos for that. Still, the sink is small.THERMOSTATThere is an excellent heat and cooling thermostat in each cabin.SHIP'S ANNOUNCEMENTSIf you are in your cabin it is very difficult to hear the ship's activity announcements over the PA system as it is not broadcast into the room. One has to open the door of the cabin to hear the announcements.SUGGESTION: Since there is a speaker in the room for 'major' ship announcements (like emergencies), it would be nice if there was some sort of wall switch that could be controlled by the passenger to also hear/or not hear the hallway announcements in the cabin over the in room speaker.ELEVATORSThere are only two major banks of elevators on the ship for general traffic. The fore bank doesn't stop on one of the decks (deck six I believe.) For me, no problem. I would get off of floor earlier or later, and walk up or down the stairs. But here is the situation, remember this is a very long ship. A passenger in wheelchair had a cabin in the fore part of the ship and wanted to go to this deck. She couldn't use the elevator, which was near at hand, and get off at a different floor and use the stairs. She would have to use her wheelchair and go the length of the ship to the aft to use the other bank of elevators, to descend to the deck, and then travel again the length of the ship to get to where she wanted to go. There is something wrong with that.SUGGESTION: NCL should make sure that individuals in wheelchairs are assigned to cabins closer to the aft elevators where there use to arrive at all decks are not impeded.CONCLUSIONGreat ship, excellent fixtures, good food, menu may require adjustment, champion buffet, numerous extra charge speciality restaurants, quality entertainment, nice cabins -- very small over priced Studio cabins (on this trip), tons of activities at all hours, outstanding gym and equipment, probably not a first choice for single passengers when considering dining policy and availability of partners for dancing, generally a poor view of the water when not in a balcony cabin, more bars than a jail cell, happy and pleasant crew, Captain always arrived at the correct port on time, DJs need improvement, no laundromat or ironing room, very small sinks, helpful and pleasant ships crew. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
We've just returned from 22 wonderful days on the Epic. We found the staff exceptionally friendly with many greeting us by name. As advertised, the entertainment is superb. The big name acts were as expected: Blue Man Group, ... Read More
We've just returned from 22 wonderful days on the Epic. We found the staff exceptionally friendly with many greeting us by name. As advertised, the entertainment is superb. The big name acts were as expected: Blue Man Group, Legends, Second City. All were enjoyable, especially as the transatlantic sea days provided time for special "meet the performers" sessions for BMG and Legends. In addition to these, there were many other talented performers in bars and the atrium. Our favorite of all entertainment was the Slam Allen Band which performs in Fat Cats Lounge. This New Orleans style blues band was absolutely fantastic. Second City left after the TA. Stephen Sorrentino, a talented musical comedian came on and was very enjoyable. I did not care for the marionette group which also came on after the TA. We did not see the Spanish ballet which came on in Barcelona. Much has been written about the stateroom and bathroom issues. The standard balcony room was smaller than any we'd been in before. The bathroom didn't cause any problems for the two of us but I would not like that style rooming with a friend rather than spouse. Two days into our cruise we were notified that we would need to move due to noise from a repair on the spa above. At this time I requested a handicapped room to make using my knee scooter easier and having a place to park it. We had paid more in order to not have to move during the three cruise segments and I was not pleased to have to do so. No handicapped rooms were available. (I had not booked one since the accident happened after booking and I'd hoped to be well by the cruise.) None were available but the desk staff very kindly provided an upgraded room which helped a lot. I met someone during the cruise whose travel agent had booked them into a handicapped room because they are bigger. This is an unacceptable practice, IMHO. I had never before traveled or cruised as a handicapped person. I now admire those who seem to do it easily. The design of the Epic did not help me with my first such attempt. Our rooms were both aft at the very end. I never went to breakfast at the buffet as it was too much of a struggle to get there, going the length of the ship to get there and again to get back. I tried to coordinate meals and activities, minimizing the trips to the far end. Whoever designed this ship did not consider the needs of the handicapped. If you wished to go to the Taste dining room, you literally could not get there from the aft elevator. This is not a problem if you walk and take the escalator from the sixth floor. If you must use an elevator, you have to travel the length of the ship, take the forward elevator, and then go back half way. Mid-ship elevators would have helped me get around much better. I'd advise booking a forward room if you have mobility issues. Not all public restrooms had handicapped facilities. The ones which did were very nice, but if one needed wheelchair access, you might have to go up or down a floor to find one. There was no elevator available at the time of embarkation in Miami as it was still being used by those leaving. No reason was given for the delay but being told to sit and wait while others got on was not acceptable. Fortunately, I could stand, so my DH carried my scooter up the escalator so I could board rather than sitting for an unknown amount of time. I booked the spa package for the TA and found it well worth it. It was not at all crowded as the ship was not full. It was easy to get to for me as it is located aft which was right above our room. Food was certainly plentiful. We had one dinner at Cagney's which was excellent. Dining room food was not quite as good as on other NCL ships in past years. I do not know if the more limited menu is just the Epic or change fleet wide. However, if you didn't find something you liked, the "anytime" items such as salmon and steak were always good as was the garden salad. We booked this due to the Med itinerary. If you want time in Pisa, I'd advise not booking a tour that combines it with others. We had only five minutes there..would have been fifteen, but I spent ten in the bathroom. All tours varied according to the guide, I found by comparing notes with other cruisers. It seems there is not enough quality control on this. All in all, we had a great time. I look forward to returning to the Epic when I'm completely back on my feet and can enjoy all of it. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
We travelled from Dayton to Orlando by plane and took the shuttle to the port. At the port, we were greeted with massive swarms of "love bugs", so the outside decks of the ship were closed. The beginning of the cruise was humid, ... Read More
We travelled from Dayton to Orlando by plane and took the shuttle to the port. At the port, we were greeted with massive swarms of "love bugs", so the outside decks of the ship were closed. The beginning of the cruise was humid, stuffy and uncomfortable. By the second day of the cruise, the decks had finally been cleared of insect debris and it was "safe" to come outside. The "outside" mainly consisted of pools - the adult side was great, but far from the fast food. Food on the ship was plentiful and I was pleased to see healthy choices. It was not always convenient to get non- buffet food as the hours were short and the time zone changes came pretty fast. The food and service were good throughout with excellent service. Except for the 2 hour meal periods, the variety was limited however. Entertainment consisted of photo-ops with characters and the requisite ships photographers, old Disney movies in a variety of venues, dance classes and a couple of shows per day. The ships cast was excellent but I found the others mediocre. Specifically, the comedians spent way too much time "bullying" individuals in the audience. Why can't Disney combat bullying instead of glorifying it? The ports were very good and I enjoyed time off the boat. For me, the cruise would have been better if there was a library on board, some good comfortable chairs for reading and a variety of food options during the times when the restaurants were closed. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
In reality the problems began before we reached Ft. Lauderdale when the Cruise Critic board had info our travel agent didn't concerning the delayed boarding. Princess denied the delay to our TA on the phone, then sent out an e-mail ... Read More
In reality the problems began before we reached Ft. Lauderdale when the Cruise Critic board had info our travel agent didn't concerning the delayed boarding. Princess denied the delay to our TA on the phone, then sent out an e-mail the next day! The advisory, which threatened to turn away cars which arrived in port before 2pm, should have told us that things were a bit awry at the self-styled "Consummate Host". There was no one available at embarcation to direct us to the proper line. We were fortunate to be undercover but still outside when the torrential rain came down all over the stacked up baggage. There was no Welcome Aboard Princess Patter in our cabin, so we had no idea of optional/mandatory activities. Rumors circulated about postponed sailing, so having to return to the cabin for the lifejacket to attend the safety drill was a surprise. The Patter finally came after dinner. The pattern of wrong information and lack of information continued throughout the cruise. In general the crew tended to ignore problems and hope they would go away. If you asked a question and received an answer, it would later turn out to be the wrong answer! I think if the Captain had frankly addressed the passengers and said, "we did this badly, and we apologize" it would have gone a long way towards making passengers feel that they weren't being ignored. On the plus side, we felt the production shows were wonderful. We'd seen them all before, enjoyed them all again! The port lecturer was excellent, and I attended every one except the first (because we'd already been there before and knew our plans.) The food in the dining room was generally very good, though I kept wishing it could be served hot -- not just warm. We enjoyed the perks of booking a full suite, such as the room service steward laying down a tablecloth on our coffee table before setting down our breakfast & lunch. But even in the top digs, some of the finer points were missing. The balcony table was disassembled and the balcony dirty. The door between balconies was unlocked and banging back and forth in the wind. The DVD's we requested never arrived (and no one could help us, other than suggesting we order different ones). Dining room menus in the cabin are supposedly a special feature, but we didn't receive them until we asked for them. Certainly not major complaints, but not up to par for cabins that are top tier. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
This was our first & last transatlantic cruise. We have sailed previously on Princess to Alaska, the Caribbean & the Amazon and to the E. Med & Caribbean on other lines. We choose a cruise for its itinerary with cruise line ... Read More
This was our first & last transatlantic cruise. We have sailed previously on Princess to Alaska, the Caribbean & the Amazon and to the E. Med & Caribbean on other lines. We choose a cruise for its itinerary with cruise line very important also. Ports of call were Funchal, Maderia; Cadiz (for Seville), Spain; Alghero, Sardinia; Civitavechia (for Rome), Italy; Livorno (for Pisa & Florence), Italy; & Monaco. Disembarkation was in Barcelona. We were upgraded from ocean view to second category balcony two weeks prior to sailing & were thankful for this as I took a walk past our original booking cabin & found the area to be noisy (produced by the ship) & vibrations could be felt also. Enjoyed our cabin on deck 14 w/large walk-in closet & plenty of shelf (storage) space. More storage space adjacent to bed on both sides. Balcony was average; however, several decks below, balconies were deeper w/more furniture & we could view them very well. TV channels extremely limited (BBC, ESPN & CNN). Princess had several channels & of course there were lots of movie channels. Theater - We found this to be cramped quarters & it was necessary to arrive 30 min. before show time to get a seat. Shows were average except the final "Once Upon a Dream" was excellent. Singers/dancers were excellent also. Have seen better produced shows on other lines, however. Other shows in the lounges (magician, comedian, etc.) were average. Dining - We chose any time dining for a change & this choice did not allow for waiters to do more than average serving. Food was mostly average & the occasional poor food was replaced upon request. Crown Grill (specialty) was definitely worth the cost as both waiter & food were far superior to DR. Horizon Court (open 21 hrs/day) was good, but during busy times it was difficult to get food desired (between all the pax). Cafe Carib has different selections & we only ate there once. There was pizza & soft-serve yogurt (ice cream) on deck near the pool. We did not use room service as a tip was required to be put on the order form - we prefer to tip in person. Apparently, most tipping on the ship is shared & no one can keep personal tips. Activities - Though there were multiple activities listed in the "Patter", we usually found that we had to make a choice between things to do in the a.m. (all things we wanted to do were taking place simultaneously) & there were few choices we were interested in doing in the p.m. (except dance lessons). Trivia was usually in conflict with other activities also. The cruise director (Samantha) was excellent in teaching the dancing. We would have liked to play shuffleboard (but there was no court) or ping pong (the table was placed where it was always windy & impossible to play). Also tried Princess Links (Putt course), but it was also too windy on the very top deck. We don't play bridge & have seen numerous ice carving demos & were not interested in Golden Radio days which was scheduled most sea days. I was hoping for some photo classes but I only saw one & it required walking around the ship which was difficult as the instructor couldn't be seen/heard with the numerous pax there for the class. If one is interested in movies, this ship is for you as there were always movies to be seen in the cabin & also under MUTS from morning through evening; however, we don't cruise to see movies - we want to do things we can't do at home. The band Unison was excellent & played poolside & in the lounges in the evening. There never was a "DECK" party on this cruise & we were disappointed. Crew - Room stewardess was excellent & also the cruise director as I mentioned previously, but the remainder of the crew was just average. An exception was the Internet manager, Andrei Vison, who spent his time reading his email & not helping pax. One lady told me she needed help & he refused to assist unless it was in the evening (7-9 pm) & she said she would either be getting ready for dinner or eating & could not go to the internet cafe at that time. I also, as a courtesy, spoke w/Andrei regarding one computer that was "hung" (not functioning at all) & suggested he reboot it, but his reply was he would see about it the next day & he continued to read his email. On the last day, the printer malfunctioned & although we had sent some things to the print queue, we never did get them as the printer was not fixed, nor a back-up installed. Excursions - Some of the ports we visited were apparently only frequented once or twice annually (during the transatlantic cruises) as we had difficulty with local companies; however, Princess did issue partial refunds. Won't go into details due to infrequency of the ports. Summary - Due to lack of interested activities (& loss of news transmission during TA crossings - no satellite reception), we were actually bored for the first week, but definitely got plenty of rest. We also were unhappy with the general "lack of interest" the crew seem to have. Perhaps this is largely due to the automatic tipping applied to room charges & I don't have a solution for this. We are used to having the crew anticipate our needs & desires and the service to be superb; hence, we were disappointed. Unless Princess is the only line with a particular itinerary we are interested in, we will probably sail with another cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
This 4-night Bahamian cruise was booked months before the Disney Dream had her maiden voyage. Since then, we have been reading posts from former guests, and I confess we was pretty scared about what to expect from this cruise. It seemed ... Read More
This 4-night Bahamian cruise was booked months before the Disney Dream had her maiden voyage. Since then, we have been reading posts from former guests, and I confess we was pretty scared about what to expect from this cruise. It seemed that Disney Dream's crew wasn't prepared to face a 50%-bigger ship, what can explain all those angry posts related to crazy embarkation and disembarkation process, crowded areas, and so on. Furthermore, we are near-seniors without kids. We love all that peace aboard a cruiseship. So, why cruising with Disney? The answer is, we are Disney fans. We LOVE Disney stuff, we love Disney parks. We had to cruise, at least once, with Disney. But, to our conclusion, Disney Dream crew made the homework. The cruise was excellent, with no glitches. Embarkation process was one of the fastest we have ever faced (we have been cruising with several 100.000+ tons ships over the last 10 years), buffet area was always with lots of people, but we could always find a place to sit and eat, adults pool was an oasis and public areas were only crazy when a character made an appearance, to photo sessions. Main pool area was also crazy, with hundreds of kids and their parents, but it didn't bothered us, for we had our small oasis, a few meters to the forward. Even dining rooms, with lots of kids having meals around (what isn't usual in other cruises), were a "safe" place. Talking about the dining rooms, we loved this Disney's system that makes guests to have dinner each night at a different restaurant, so we all had the opportunity to know all three. We didn't used the specialty restaurants. Disney has put the prices too high, compared to other cruise companies. It wasn't worthy, that's it. And regular dining rooms are not to be missed. Talking about food, Cabanas buffet had the best buffet food we have ever tasted aboard a cruiseship. On the other hand, regular dining rooms had only a ok food quality. To be absolutely honest, it was a food quality we liked the least, compared to all cruises we have made over the years. It wasn't bad, but it had no appeal, and tasted only regular. Thumbs down. Many people love Disney Dream's staterooms, with those double bathrooms (one with the toilet, one with the shower tub). To our needs, it's a loss of precious space but, again, we travel with no kids. Maybe it's perfect to a couple with kids, so "bathroom routines" can be addressed in half-time... Disney Dream's crew was one of the most friendly we have ever met - maybe the friendliest. You simply can't walk around the ship without having a member of the crew saying you "how are you, sir/ma'am", "how is/was your day". Lovely. Disembarkation process was also straight. On the disembarkation day, you go to have breakfast at the same dining room you had dinner the night before and, when you're done, go ashore. No mess, no rush. With such an experience, we can say that this May, 22nd 4-night Bahamian cruise aboard the Disney Dream was beyond all our expectations. But we don't feel like doing it again. A Disney ship is a kid-oriented environment. Even having adults-only areas, it's not a ship for adults without kids. One last thing: I didn't talk about Entertainment. In fact, to my opinion, the best attraction aboard was Pirates Of The Caribbean 4 - 3D movie. I simply can't stand those Broadway-like shows, everyday at the theater. They look all the same, no matter the Cruise Company, with screaming "dancers and singers". Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
This was our first Transatlantic and our first cruise on the smallest of the HAL ships, the Prinsendam. Having sailed on the Eurodam last year, we weren't sure how the small ship would be, but it was marvelous. Yes, it's ... Read More
This was our first Transatlantic and our first cruise on the smallest of the HAL ships, the Prinsendam. Having sailed on the Eurodam last year, we weren't sure how the small ship would be, but it was marvelous. Yes, it's an older ship, but it's well-cared for and has a very nice layout. I love the little hallways to the rooms...they make the rooms much quieter. Our cabin was very nice (would have liked the "tub one" with the very usable tub, but there were no more when we booked.) The walk-in closet was very nice. Beds were very good, as usual. Our stewards did an excellent job keeping it neat and clean. We booked the "low, mid" category just in case we encountered rough seas which we did not, but I would book this room or any near it again. We heard no noise from anywhere, unless they were lowering the tender which was above our room (but out of sight.) We ate in the Lido for most meals since it's nice to see what your choices are and see it all freshly prepared. The staff there were so courteous and attentive! Always asking if we needed coffee or tea or could they get us something else. We were truly spoiled by them. They were the best of any "dam ship" Lido staff we've encountered. We always like the library on Holland America ships, and this one is lovely...and NOT combined with the Crows Nest we we dislike! The selection of books was excellent and kept us busy reading for the duration of the voyage, although we had Kindle/Ipad/paperbacks as backups. The Internet manager knew his computers (unlike some in the past) and seemed to be able to help everyone with their Iphones to PCs. (By the way, the Digital Workshop appeared to be excellent...but I'm a Mac.) We don't cruise to see shows so other than the Celtic Tenors (some of my favorite singers anyway...who knew I'd luck into having them on the cruise with us!!!) and Sally Jones (another "regular" on HAL who I enjoy hearing) we didn't bother going to it....we were usually working on photos or reading. There were plenty of activities to amuse people...bridge, lectures, sit and knit, trivia, sports, etc. I can't imagine anyone getting bored...even though this was a long voyage. The excursions were good...you needed to do your homework before to choose them. We did several private tours that we arranged with various CC members and they were outstanding. We would DEFINITELY cruise on this ship again! (Like the fact it can go into ports other ships can't...therefore we were often the only cruise ship in port!) Read Less
Sail Date May 2011

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